Okay, here's an odd coincidence: at the same time, my father and my cat experienced the same health care crisis.
On almost the same day, my father and my cat received puncture wounds from a cat. For my father, it was his house cat, Billy, who got a little to frisky while they were playing and got his teeth into my dad's paper-thin, 88-year-old skin.
For my cat, Gus, he is mostly an indoor cat, but he goes out once or twice a day, and at some point, he got into a fight with another neighborhood cat.
The outcome was the same. Sometime after the event, my dad's hand swelled up from the infection inside the bite puncture. And, my cat holed up in the house, nursing his wounds to his paw that had swollen up after the cat fight.
Now, when I found out about my dad, he was in the emergency room. They gave him a tetanus shot and an antibiotic to treat both the immediate danger and the infection. He called me from the hospital, upbeat and well cared for. He has great health care, Medicare plus a supplement, which allows him to go to a doctor or hospital any time he feels like it to get checked out for whatever is bothering him in the slightest, for which he pays a nominal fee.
My cat, on the other hand, when it became clear that his paw was not going to get better, had to be taken to the vet. For his short and long term treatments, plus updates on various shots, heart worms, cat leukemia, etc., it cost over $400. That's right. $400.
And there's the issue right there. A) I don't know anyone who can drop an unplanned $400 out of nowhere that easily and B) I don't know anyone who understands, let alone has invested in, whatever kind of pet health insurance is out there.
If you really want to talk about "death panels" beyond the idiocy of Sarah Palin or conservative people of her ilk, then you are talking about pets, not elderly. And you are talking about your pets. And you are the death panel. For in modern America, it is health for your own pet and the tough choices that you will have to make, that will make you cringe.
Pets are awesome, until you have to take them to the vet, and then you start to sweat the money that you may have to spend and the choices that you will have to make. Let's be realistic: the best pet that you could possibly have isn't going to live more than about 15 years, and you are going to make decisions based on two things. First, will be that relatively short life span. Second will be the cost/benefit analysis of that short life and what it will cost to extend it. Plus, if you decide to end your pet's life, no one will judge you, at least not for very long. Certainly not Sarah Palin.
We do not have good options for pets in this country. We can't help feeling like when we enter the vet's office that we must grapple with the pet version of Valvoline, where we feel like we are being offered services that we don't really need. We just can't tell. We might go for some of them out of guilt. We might decide that we can hold off until the next tune-up. We might have to make a purely financial decision.
All I know is that my cat's care is far more expensive than my father's, and that it doesn't matter whether you factor in health insurance or not. The choices that I have to make for my cat or dog are based on money; the ones that my father makes, or that I will eventually make for him, are not, for the most part. That doesn't seem right.