I was in Sarasota, Florida over Memorial Day weekend when I realized my 22-lb terrier Lily was probably struggling with a urinary tract infection.
Our experience with the local veterinarian left me so jealous of Lily's health care that I wish I could adopt it for myself.
What was so great?
We had upfront and transparent prices, for one. But it was also easy to book a same-day appointment. The vet’s assistant called our Tallahassee vet for Lily’s recent medical history, and she offered to treat Lily not only for her UTI, but also for her routine maintenance.
It didn't end there.
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The vet gave us prompt and easy-to-read medical records. She was nice to Lily, making her more comfortable, but also communicating to me that she wanted Lily to get better, even if I know, like doctors, she makes more money when Lily is sick.
The vet’s office emailed us as soon as the visit was over, providing more information and an easy way to get in touch if we had problems. The office texted us the following morning just to see how Lily was doing.
When was the last time your doctor’s office called or texted just to check in on you? I’ve never had that.
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The total was $438.48. It included six months of medication and all the services:
- Six-months-worth of Simparica medication to protect against fleas, heartworm and ticks. Price: $153.50.
- Urinary analysis. Price: $60.
- Fourteen 68-mg tablets of Baytril to treat her UTI. Price: 55.08.
- Heartworm parasite screening. Price: $45.
- Fecal exam. Price: $37.40.
- DHLPP Vaccine. Price: $28.
- Bordetella Vaccine. Price: $20.
- Four 25-mg tablets of Deramaxx for pain. Price: $18.
- Nail trim. Price: $13.
- OSHA Compliance Fee. Price: $6.50.
They waived our $49 visit fee since we were new customers.
Was it expensive? Sure. But it wasn’t nearly as expensive as human health care.
I think a key difference between Lily's care and mine is health insurance. I have to use it in every aspect of my own care, but not for Lily's.
The result is that most vets expect dog parents to pay out of pocket, making the prices more transparent, reliable and sensitive to market forces.
And maybe vets just like animals more than docs like people. I could see that. But they also just provide better customer service because they know we can simply go somewhere else if they treat us like dirt.
After my piece last week on how hospitals dominated the Florida 2021 lawmaking session at patients' expense, I spent an afternoon dealing with industry pushback. A lobbyist argued that I missed the mark when I reported hospitals hurt patients by blocking a bill that would have required them to list prices for 300 common procedures.
"They ain’t shopping," the lobbyist texted me. "They don’t have any reason to."
Excuse me? We have plenty of reasons to shop around.
Receiving health care that is remotely as good as our pets’ is reason #1.
Fast-forward to my own latest health care debacle.
After Sarasota, my husband Lawrence and I spent the week in St. Petersburg, Florida.
My tamoxifen prescription, which lowers my chances of cancer recurrence by a whopping 15 percent, ran out shortly after the holiday weekend. I was never notified to update it because while my doctor told me to double the dosage after two weeks, she never wrote it down on the prescription itself.
So per my insurance and pharmacy, my supply was supposed to last longer than it did.
After pill-splitting all weekend to conserve my meds, I called the local pharmacy on Tuesday. They assured me they would ship the drugs overnight so that I could get them the next day in Clearwater.
I never heard from the pharmacy on Wednesday, to pick up my prescription, like they said I would.
When I called back on Thursday morning, the pharmacist informed me they had canceled my refill because insurance refused to pay.
“Your doctor wrote it wrong,” the pharmacist said.
My voice grew louder, as it does now, whenever someone says they're screwing me on treatment.
“Don’t yell at me, this isn’t our fault,” the pharmacist said.
“I need this drug today,” I said as calmly as I could. “Because regardless of whose fault it is, if I don’t take that drug today, you and I are rolling the cancer-recurrence dice together.”
The pharmacist softened. She offered to call around to see if anyone had the medication in stock.
Yes, I said.
She called back and said I could get the pills that afternoon in Tampa.
I would give over my left pinky finger for health care customer service like Lily’s.