This week, I have ahad a taste of what it might be like not to have health insurance for members of my family. Fortunately, my experience did not involve uninsured children, but instead an uninsured dog. My puppy, Owen, just turned 6 months old and he does not have health insurance. Being a risk adverse person, I investigated the insurance options when we got Owen. However, I soon learned that health insurance for dogs is prohibitvely expensive. Even simple catastrophic coverage cost at least $30-40 per month (For those who don’t know, “catastrophic insurance” is insurance that covers only “catastrophically” expensive health care for illness or injury), and regular health insurance coverage for dogs is simply not cost effective.
Last week, Owen had surgery. Fortunately, the surgery was routine (OK, we took away his ability to father puppies) and surgery for dogs is a lot less expensive than surgery for humans. Still, I paid several hundred dollars for his care. I had to make some tough decisions, such as whether to pay extra for the less invasive, less painful laser surgery, and how much to spend on pain medication (not to mention our worries about breaking or chipping the cone on his head – an added expense). Furthermore, when Owen’s stitches started bleding on Saturday afternoon, we had to decide whether to take him to the Emergency Animal Care and pay another large sum, or wait until Monday to have him re-checked by his regular doctor for free. Since Owen is, after all, a non-human animal, and since he continued to romp happily (as much as he could with a cone on his head), we decided to wait until Monday.
This experience got me thinking. I have a friend who is pregnant who only has catastrophic health insurance. I have another friend who has children and no health insurance. I imagine how hard it must be to make health care decisions for them. Wait until the cheaper doctor on Monday or go to the ER? Purchase the highest quality, least pain method of surgery or opt for the cheaper and plan to do lots of handholding? These decisions can’t be easy – indeed, they must be agonizing for the millions of uninsured parents with uninsured children in this country. I am lucky. Only my dog is uninsured. But I sure do feel for the many others are not so lucky.