October 27, 2015

Pet insurance fail for senior dogs

Couple of weeks ago, we noticed that the last few claims we put with Piri's insurance - ASPCA Pet Health Insurance - were denied. They were for his Sub-Q fluids and also a second urine culture to see if the bacteria in his urine was completely gone. The bacteria has been bothering him since the summer and we have been getting reimbursed for these treatments and therapy in the past. 

So what happened? 

I thought it was just a mistake and called ASPCA Pet Health Insurance thinking it would be resolved without any problems. 

Then the first representative I spoke with told me that because our plan with them renewed in September, Piri's kidney disease is now considered pre-existing and can no longer be covered. The same with his bacteria in his urine. If he is to ever get urinary tract infection again he, unfortunately, won't be covered anymore.

I was so shocked and appalled at the same time that I was at a loss for words. I was silent for a few seconds then very angrily asked what their cancellation policy was and that I will be looking around for other options. She said she can connect me with someone at their cancellation department and then told me to have a nice day. 

I think that irritated me even more. Have a nice day? Are you kidding me?

I quickly looked at other pet health insurance options - Healthy Paws and a couple of others - and then a harsh reality set in. If we switch over to a new insurance company then his kidney disease will be considered pre-existing with them as well since he will have had the illness prior to enrollment. Staying with ASPCA and leaving them was a lose lose situation for us. 

I got back on the phone with ASPCA and tried to reason with them. I pleaded with them. I told them that Piri needs ongoing treatment - he needs his fluids twice a week and will need to get his blood and urine tested every few months. And god forbid if an emergency happens we will need his insurance to help with costs. "Is there anything within your plan that will help us? We've been with you for so long." 

The second representative said, "Unfortunately there is nothing we can do for you now. If you had gotten your dog on Continual Care by the time he turned 8 then he could be covered for chronic illnesses and conditions. Your dog isn't eligible to get Continual Care in his policy now because he has aged out." 

So it was our fault in the end, huh. That is how she made me feel regardless of what her intention was. I felt myself choke up - I don't know - I think I was just angry. It's always been a complex of mine. I cry when I get angry. Another complex of mine is I always think of things to say after the fact. 

I realized that we got Piri on ASPCA Pet Health Insurance when he was 10 years old, after he eligible for Continual Care. 

What happens if this is the case? Can we appeal? Is there an exemption or some other option? 

I thought to get on the phone again and try to reason once more but then saw this -- 

Dogs that are over the age of 9 at the time of enrollment just aren't eligible for Continual Care. 
As if I needed more bad news I got an email back from Healthy Paws and they said, "Please know we are unable to cover pets that are 14 years old or older at enrollment." Then she proceeded to say that she was sorry to hear about my pet and that she wishes us the best. 


I know that for us we will somehow manage. We're not rich but we live comfortably enough. Yangkyu hates credit card debt but the only time he is ok with it is when it accumulates due to Piri's medicare care. Insurance has definitely helped. But if they can no longer cover, we will somehow manage. 

This isn't an option for everyone. I feel so angry and screwed over but I look at the entire process of how pet insurance works {or doesn't work for senior pets} and that's what gets me so mad. 

Piri was diagnosed with kidney disease in October 2014. I look back now and realize that was when his plan had just renewed. Everything that happened within the past year - all those vet visits, tests, scares, emergency runs, which amounted to thousands of dollars - were covered. If he was diagnosed even in August of July of last year, that means we would've been only covered for his treatments for a few months before his plan renewed, which would've then classified his illness as pre-existing. Everything that happened the past year would've been paid out of pocket. 

How does this make any sense??

How do you classify an illness as pre-existing once a plan renews? 

All dogs need care, but finding out that pet insurance companies do very little to care for super senior pets that are ailing and need medical attention makes me angry. 

What happens to someone who adopts a senior dog? Or enrolls a dog late in age? All these loopholes and age caps leave little room for elderly pets and their owners to feel that they have support in ensuring their pets get the medical attention they need. 

A friend of ours sent us an article today that breaks down pet insurance for older dogs, which I found to be helpful that I thought I'd share for dog owners. Even if your dog is still young, it's important to think long term. 

Today we'll be looking into Embrace and Pets Best. Even though Piri's kidney disease will be considered existing and won't be covered if we switch over to a new insurance company, we hope to find something that will cover chronic illness should Piri develop some other illness in the future. 

This has just been so upsetting and confusing for me. Each day I learn something new about having a senior pet. Piri is the first dog to live this long and so some of his needs and care is new to me. Some things in retrospect seem obvious but really at the time I wasn't really thinking so far in the future. Perhaps that was a mistake on my part but the penalty just seems too harsh. 

We will somehow manage. But it doesn't matter if we can. 

Pet insurance policy for pets need to be better and more accessible for senior pets. 

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