Twelve years ago, I would never have imagined myself being unable to afford and access health care for myself, let alone for my pets.
I need a great deal of dental work badly, but medicare does not pay for any dental, and dental insurance is out of the question, so we scrimp and save to get done what we can. In the meantime, teeth that might have been saved with early treatment, will end up having to be pulled by the time we can get to them.
The doctor wants me on meds I can't take, because I can't afford them, even with my medicare prescription plan. Drug-cost assistance programs are only for people without any coverage, or for people with lower incomes than we have.
If we lived in a more expensive apartment, we'd be eligible for some programs (because rent/mortgage is factored in, but current medical expenses are not.
An ER cannot refuse a person care in an emergency for inability to pay, but there is no similar guarantee for pets. If you can't make payment, too bad, Fluffy dies, unless you can learn to do some of the medical care yourself.
With my rats over the years, I've discovered that it's often easier and safer to learn basic veterinary care myself than to find a knowledgeable vet. In most communities, vets don't see a lot tiny pets.
I actually considered euthanizing one pet rat myself, because I was having trouble finding a vet who would do it (and this was when money wasn't an issue for me). Every vet I called either wouldn't treat small animals or wouldn't see my rat immediately. The rat was unable to breathe, so was in a lot of distress (cancer). Finally, I found a local vet willing to help (a large animal, farm vet, ironically).
These experiences taught me that I had to self-educate for my own healthcare and that of my animals, but the time to do that is ideally before a crisis, not in the middle of one.
Most of us aren't prepared for crises though, because we're not taught to expect the unexpected. We take things like healthcare and veterinary care for granted until those safety nets are pulled out from under us.