Be Leary of 'Usual and Customary' fees

Out of 10

On Tuesday, August 19, 2008, my beloved nine year old brindled Greyhound, Cuppie, was fine and his usual quirky self. [Cuppie was two when I adopted him back in 2001.] Wednesday morning was beautiful and sunny and as I was getting all three Greyhounds up to go for a walk, I realized both of Cuppie’s back legs were paralyzed as I watched him struggle to get up. I called my regular vet (who does both Western and TCM) and immediately got Cuppie to his office. After being there several days with no improvement, on Friday morning my vet asked that I research a place to get an MRI or CT scan of Cuppie’s spine so we would know exactly what we were dealing with. I made some calls and arranged to get him into Katonah-Bedford Vet Center for a CT scan. I was told to bring Cuppie in as an emergency room patient because he was paralyzed and on a gurney. His kidney values were elevated, he was dehydrated and leaking urine, both back legs paralyzed... I took him in early in the afternoon for a CT scan and picked him up several weeks later in a decorative tin. My vet’s bill for three days of hospitalization was $1,121.30, while the bill for the afternoon of the 23rd at K-B Vet Center was $4,161.57… FOR A CT SCAN! Initially, I was very relieved that I had VPI pet insurance for Cuppie… but of the $4,161.57 in charges from K-B, I’ve received $1,260.90, and for my vet’s bill, after being faxed at least four times, VPI has only acknowledged $652.30 of charges, of which they’ve paid $73.89. There are still charges of $469.00 from my vet which still have not been processed. Of the $4,000+ from K-B, they lumped together $1,366 of ‘treatments’ and paid a whopping $99.90! So, for $5,282.87 in charges, VPI reimbursed me their ‘usual and customary’ amounts of $1,334.79. Oh, and did I mention I had VPI’s SUPERIOR PLAN… I would NOT recommend VPI to anyone. I think the key words to take into account with any pet insurance company are ‘usual and customary’… however, premiums are based on zip code and ‘usual and customary’ charges are higher in my area… but VPI’s payments leave much to be desired… as well as their efficiency of processing. On each claim form, you write in your email address and phone number and they are to contact you when your claims are received. I have never received any such confirmation. The other issue I’ve always had with VPI is their mandatory lost and found registry fee… which is just another way of filling their coffers. Greyhounds have tattoos and are registered through the adopting Greyhound rescue group… but every year, I was forced to pay an additional fee for a service I would never use. Needless to say, when my other two Greyhounds’ insurance policies with VPI came up for renewal at the beginning of March, I did not renew… and about that time, I adopted another Greyhound boy, who definitely will NOT be covered by VPI… or probably any pet insurance company. Lesson learned… MY recommendation if I had a ‘do over’ would be to get an on-line estimate of the yearly premium for each dog and put that money into an account that you can liquidate in a short period of time… then, when you need the money, it will be available and there will be no frustration, aggravation or claim forms … and you will no longer be funding the insurance company.

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