A few weeks ago I found a lump or just an area of swelling on the stomach of my king snake. After observing him for a couple of weeks, I decided to take him to the vet.
As it turned out there are many veterinary clinics near where I live. Many of them are small clinics operating out of residential houses converted into offices, while a couple of bigger ones operate out of buildings that used to be farm houses. Smaller clinics may have only a single doctor, medium sized ones may have a husband & wife team along with their child all working as the vets, while bigger ones may have a team of many vets.
Eventually I chose a small clinic with a single doctor who has experience with reptiles. I scheduled for a 2:30PM appointment on the same day I called, and showed up much earlier than expected. However this turned out to be a good thing – since the doctor finished earlier with his previous patient, we simply started my appointment earlier.
The lump on the snake is soft, and not always visible depending on the position & posture of his body. We spent quite a while playing “find the lump” in the doctor’s office. The fact that the snake moved and squirmed about did not help. While the vet’s assistant got a good look at the lump, the doctor never really managed to find it. He did, however, pry the snake’s mouth open with a wooden stick and verified that there were no lesions or signs of illnesses inside. Eventually he dismissed the whole deal with the lump, stating it is most likely a fatty deposit. For now, we’re suspecting that the snake is simply fat, although I will continue to monitor him and feed him less.
The entire visit, during which the doctor simply flipped the snake over, handled him about and pried his mouth open with a stick, cost me 50 dollars. It felt like a ripoff and I was upset about it for a brief while, until I started comparing the care my snake received compared to mine.
Due to over-regulation, small health clinics don’t really exist in my area, or perhaps most of the US in general. No such thing as a clinic with just one or two general practitioners due to the costs and regulations involved. While there are easily 8 or more various sized veterinary offices near my home, there’s only 1 large clinic with a team of around 10 doctors that most local people use. Further away, there’s a large regional hospital situated in a complex that spans a couple of city blocks. Sure, there are some local specialty places like radiology offices and a surprisingly high number of dentist’s offices, but overall, my snake has more choices when it comes to local doctors and clinics to use for general issues.
My snake got poked around in a rather undignified manner, and was eventually told he was too fat, and had his issues dismissed. Annoyed as I am, I realized that this is basically what happens during most of MY doctor’s visits as well. The one main difference is that my snake saw a doctor the same day I called, while I usually need to wait a week or two for my appointments (much more for specialists), and that I have never seen my doctors on the appointed time.
All of my visits to the various doctor’s in different clinics and hospitals over the past 7 years or so, be it to a general practitioner or a specialist, involved at least 2, sometimes 3 or 4 hours of time spending waiting past the appointment time. They are simply that overwhelmed. The most spectacular wait time I’ve experienced involved an eye specialist’s office, where I was supposed to see the doctor at 1:30PM, and ended up finally seeing him at around 6:30PM in the evening. Furthermore, while the vet took his time with my snake, I’m usually rushed out of the office when I do manage to see the doctors I scheduled to see, because of the backlog of patients they have.
I paid $50 for my pet to be manhandled and called fat. Coincidentally, the copay that I pay for each of my visit to my doctor’s office, where I am likewise poked around and disparaged for being out of shape, is also $50 (more for specialists).
The difference, though, is that the only time when I need to pay for the snake’s healthcare again is if I visited the vet again for his services, while I must pay $230 a month to my health insurance company for the privilege of being able to pay $50 per doctor’s visit. I will have to pay the $230 every month even if I never once visits my doctor’s office in a given year. Incidentally, the cost of my current health insurance plan is no longer $230 per month, but rather has risen to $270 starting as of the next year.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that my pet snake has it better in terms of healthcare compared to me, a human citizen living in the United States. The system he has access to is much cheaper and has a lot more doctors and clinics available. The greater number of animal doctors and clinics also mean that for my snake, the system he deals with is much less overwhelmed and much more efficient. No such thing as walking into a vet’s office with 30 other patients in the front room and waiting 2 and a half hours past the appointment time to actually see the doctor.
I am just a simple, retired man who runs a website on various weird topics. I don’t have solutions to every problem that I notice. But when a pet snake has access to better healthcare than myself, a human being, something’s got to be wrong.