Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Product Review! Pet Insurance- Yes or No?

Cap and me in Idaho- Chukar
 I hunt all over the country.  When a new area piques my interest, I do the research and load the dogs to check it out.  I often think, my dogs must think their dog boxes are the most amazing machines- they go in at home in Georgia and they pop out somewhere else!  The only thing they know for sure is that there is some gamebird at the end of the trail.  It's pretty interesting to see how quickly they figure out the bird and the particular way that works best to pin them down.  My older dogs jump out of the box, look around, and say, "Hunh! Alfalfa fields, dikes, warm, dry, wide open.....must be Montana and Sharptails, again.  But, I'll bet I get another shot at Huns, today, too!  I just hope the Bossman can hit 'em this year!"

bird dogs and bird hunting
Hunter walking trail, Wisconsin.
All that said, not only are there rewards for the traveling hunter (and that may be just an hour away- not necessarily across the country), but there may be many hazards, as well.  For example, snakes in September in Montana (Prairie Rattlers) as well as porcupines and skunks, porkies in Wisconsin/Minnesota, snakes and Javelina in NM, lava rock in AZ and barbed wire everywhere!

bird dogs and bird hunting
The Boys have them nailed- NM Blues.
 I had always figured I'd suck it up when a dog was injured.  Commonly, it was barbed wire cuts, ear infections, colitis (from the delicious cow splats and stock tanks- yummy!), or porcupine encounters for the dogs unfamiliar with them.  Country vets usually charged way less and I considered it a "cost of doing business".  And, I have a theory that one reason there is so much disparity in the cost of human health care is due to insurance.  I talk to my MD's and they shake their heads at the control of medicine exerted by the insurance companies. I think, if pet insurance becomes more popular, the same dynamic will assert itself.  Prices will rise, service will decrease, etc.  Of course, I can't make a financial comparison, but I can just imagine how much I would have been charged for this procedure on my eye with human insurance!

bird dogs and bird hunting
Young puppy, Cap, and me in NM.
 A few years ago, I looked at Pet Insurance and did some pretty extensive Internet research into the companies offering the product.  I found a pretty diverse premium range and range of what was covered or not.  For example, I was only interested in accident insurance.  Mainly, I figured my main hazards would be porcupine, snakebite, barbed wire, animal encounters, roadway crossings, etc.  Big stuff that would cost thousands to fix. All of that was covered in all the policies.  I asked a vet in ND, one time, what did she mostly see in the clinic as far as hunting dogs?  "Barbed wire and cruciate ligament tears", was the answer. So, I looked for the exceptions.  In fact, cruciate tears are not covered in my policy, nor in most others' standard policies.  Nor are genetic defects, etc.  It's so important to read the exceptions and apply that to your particular case! 

Ace and a few ditch chickens in ND
I decided to go with a company called Pets Best.  I covered 4 Brittanys- 2 male, 2 female (none altered), ranging in age from 3 to 6 years old. My policy is for 20% deductible with a one-time/year/dog charge of $100.  They pay 80% after the $100 (once per year) charge.  My premiums are $272.64 every 6 mos, auto charged to CC. Total of $545.28/year.  I did get some discounts for number of dogs, military retired, auto deduct, etc.  There are lots of options there.  You can go all the way to 100% coverage, or up to $1000 deductible, etc.  I have no doubt the care would have been done, and I would have paid,  but this coverage made the repair of my dog's eye much more palatable.

So, to my particular example.  Cap, my main man now, took a spine of something to the eye in NM this year. It entered the eye, passed through the lens and went out the back!  Evidently, he jerked back, because while the track was there, the spine was not.  My local vet wisely referred me to a Veterinary Ophthalmologist immediately.  I got a referral the same day and was sitting in the office by 1pm.  Apparently, these guys are rare as hen's teeth, but one opened an office 30 miles away.  Normally, I would expect to go to the University of GA or Auburn Vet School (both 2+ hours away).  Cap was treated successfully with surgery (I won't go in to detail since this is about the money) and is back running field trials with great success.  I guess 3 weeks wearing a cone wasn't too debilitating.  So, the numbers:  The total for surgery was $3810.79.  After the one-time $100 ded. and the 20% deductible, the amount deposited in my checking account was $2968.64.  The claim was filed on 19 Jan 2017 and the money was in the account 10 Feb 2017.  There were other charges along the way for different meds during recovery (they were changed due to a stubborn infection during recovery) and they were all paid at 80%.  Along with Cap, Pearl, Brit female, also had corneal damage and was seen at the same time as Cap.  Her treatment was done with eye drops, was in the $450 range and was paid into my account at the same time as Cap's.

Cap on the way to a NSTRA First Place 2/11/17

All the paperwork was filed online. (I have an app on my phone that will take a picture and convert it to a .pdf document.)  The company did request some records from the specialist for Cap, and his staff provided them.  They did not request records for Pearl, the difference due to the disparity in cost of Cap's procedure, I assume. 

I guess the question is this: Is $540/year justified by the likelihood of incurring a covered injury.  For me, the answer is a conditional "yes".  If I was only running field trials, or hunting the family farm, maybe not.  But, my policy paid off three times now (also, barbed wire for Pearl last season in ND).  I'm happy, but I still check around.  Recommendation:  IF you decide this might be for you, I can recommend this company- Pets Best.  I had an excellent experience with them.  They did everything they said they'd do- on time.

Full Disclosure:  I received no consideration from anyone at Pets Best. I have not corresponded with them, other than to file claims, obtain the policy, etc. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Scrubbing out public land transfer myths

I hunt, almost exclusively, public land.  I can't afford Texas, or, in
some cases, I don't want to be tied down to a lease I've paid a pile of
money for.  I hunt many states every season, for numerous species of
birds, and, if I had a sweet Texas lease, I'd feel that pressure to "get
my money's worth".  

So,given that I hunt public land a lot, I'm very attuned to any effort to
"sell, dispose, transfer" public lands to the states.  Why? Because
states have done an abysmal job of managing their lands, including
excluding any hunting, fishing, recreational use.  To be fair, the
primary use for the states' land is to raise revenue.  The ways I've
seen them do that is to lease to farmers, ranchers, etc.  Some states
only restrict access when there are standing crops in the field.  Some
states restrict assess all the time.  Federal lands, by law, are
required to manage for many uses, including hunting, fishing, camping,
off roading, mountain biking, etc. 

bird dogs and bird hunting

Also, Federal lands (BLM, Nat. Forest, etc.) can be protected by the Feds-
for example forest fires.  A huge western forest fire could bankrupt
some western states.  They really can't afford it.  So, the obvious
solution for them is to SELL it.  And, you can rest assured there are
individuals out there who will buy millions of acres one day and post it
the next. 

bird dogs and bird hunting
Rick and Gigi

The states have a solid track record of selling their land.  To my mind,
it's best to ensure the Federal Government keeps, manages and protects
our land.  To those of you that have never hunted a state with BLM land,
it is an amazing experience. With very few restrictions, if you see it,
you can hunt it- not something most Easterners are used to.  But, you
can also camp on it, hike on it, fish on it, get closer to your kids on
it, honeymoon on it.  Don't let this incredible resource slip out of our

National Forest Minnesota