What Price Emergency Care'

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As you may know, Margaret Freeman, Dr. Eleanor Kellon, John Strassburger and I each write a blog every week (http://www.horse-journal.com/), and a little while ago I wrote about a fund-raising event for someone?s dog who had to have emergency surgery. The owner had already paid the veterinarians at Cornell more than $10,000, but she was becoming tapped out, as they say, and her options were thin. Since that blog, I've given more thought to this problem, and I feel it's bigger than we realize.

When we first heard about the fundraiser, my sister made a comment I had never thought about before, but it's one she faces it every day as a veterinarian: ?Isn?t it awful that tHere's all this wonderful technology available to save an animal?s life, but very few people can afford it'?

Apparently, a lot of people simply accept the alternative of euthansia. Mercifully, the few times I've had to make ?the decision,? there was strong evidence that the problem was beyond help and/or the chance of a good recovery was slim. But what if surgery would bring your horse back to normal and the prognosis for recovery was excellent' How do you pay'

Animal emergency clinics and veterinarians aren?t bound by the laws that force hospital emergency rooms to accept patients regardless of their ability to pay. The cost of unpaid medical care in human hospitals is absorbed by insured patients in a very roundabout way. it's not the same for our animals, and most animals are uninsured anyway.

Veterinarians can't always offer you a discount, nor should you ever expect them to. This is what they do for a living, and they have out-of-pocket expenses, too.

Sadly, though, unless you?ve actually seen the bills that can come just from a minor emergency veterinary surgery, you would likely be shocked. And that doesn't include the follow-up care, labs, radiology and so on. Even diagnostics can be cost-prohibitive.

The radiology testing our Dr. Eleanor Kellon recommends to our reader with a possible navicular horse (page 15) is a good plan for her. However, it's going to be extremely expensive, even if tHere's a veterinary clinic in the area that has the technology.

Insurance can help, if you have major-medical coverage, but it's far from perfect. Maybe the suggestion I heard, of setting aside the premium each month in a special savings account, is a better idea. Maybe, but it's a huge ?maybe.?

The cost of insuring your horse is around 3 to 4% of the horse's value. That means that a $10,000 horse might be insured for between $300 and $400 a year. that's $6 to $8 a week. Not much, is it' Of course, there are a lot of ?it depends? out there when you ask about the cost of insuring your horse.

There are also policy limits (meaning that they will pay up to a certain amount and that's it), as well as provisions that may hamper your immediate decision on whether your horse is euthanized or eligible for surgery. Colic coverage is usually extra.

No one can predict your horse's future health. And quality of life is always a concern. The heartbreaker is when you don't have the funds to pay to regain that quality.

Cynthia Foley, Editor-in-Chief