I just received the annual renewal notice for my senior dog’s pet health insurance policy, and, sadly, made the decision not to renew it. I don’t think Otto is going to live long enough to receive the full benefit of the increased price, and as much as it pains me to say this, I’ve decided that his next big health crisis will be his last.
Despite being on three daily medications for his arthritis pain, he’s obviously still in some discomfort and is losing mobility. His nighttime anxiety waxes and wanes, but never goes away completely; overall, his quality of life is still okay, but sinking. And as the fall temperatures drop, his preference for being outside at night is getting less practical. When it was still warm, even as recently as a few weeks ago, he would go outside at bedtime and preferred to be outdoors all night. Now, it’s getting too cold for that. On my front porch, I just set up a dog house with a special pet heating pad in it, a hard plastic model meant for outdoor use, but so far, he has eschewed its use, preferring to scratch at the door to be let out at midnight, in at 2 am, out at 4 am, and back in at 6 am…. This is a little hard on me, but I’m getting so I can shuffle to the front door almost in my sleep. The bigger problem is that the cold and damp is making his arthritis pain worse, and he’s having more trouble getting up.
In the past few years, I wanted to have him insured so that I could afford almost any cost that he might incur for anything from diagnostics and treatment to advanced dentistry, to keep him going. But with his pain rising and quality of life sinking, making those “at all costs” efforts doesn’t seem like the humane thing to do anymore.
This past year, the policy still penciled out to my benefit, even though I was paying a whomping $230.57 a month for the plan. It was worth it, because, after a $250 annual deductible, the plan reimbursed me for 90% of all Otto’s veterinary bills and medications. In the past few years, Otto’s internal medicine specialist has recommended that we do an abdominal ultrasound and a chest x-ray each year, to monitor his liver (which had some benign tumors growing on it a few years ago, and still shows some irregularities) and his lungs (he’s had pneumonia before, with few symptoms). The vet also prescribed a relatively expensive medication for his arthritis; I’ve been paying $108.90 a month for it. His other medications cost much less, but they add up.
The monthly premiums added up to $2,766.84 in the past year.
I paid $5,141 for Otto’s veterinary bills and medications in the past year. Nationwide Pet Insurance reimbursed me for 90% of that (less a $250 annual deductible), for a total of $4,401.90 in reimbursements.
So, all in all, I paid a total of $3,530.90 for Otto’s insurance premiums, deductible, and the 10% of the bills that were not covered. I saved a total of $1,610.10 by having him covered by pet insurance.
But the premium was about to go up to $341.84 a month for the same plan – quite an increase. And because of Otto’s age and current health status, if he suddenly experiences a health crisis, my veterinarians and I agree, we will spare him any extensive diagnostics, and instead provide just comfort care until it’s time to provide him with permanent relief from pain. At this point, I will just pay for his medications out of pocket – and for the cost of his euthanasia, too (which would have been covered by the insurance plan).
This feels like a sad but practical decision – a step closer to the end – but one I have to take in order to make sure I can afford the care for my other two dogs, too.