Veterinary fees continue to rise each year in response to all the same factors (cost of goods sold, staffing, utilities, etc.) that increase expenses for every business. In addition, veterinary medicine continues to progress in leaps and bounds, resulting in higher standards of care. Many pet owners want the very best for their furry family members, but struggle to pay for the services desired or recommended.
How can you keep your veterinary expenses minimized? Begin with talking to your veterinary practice. Your veterinary team can assist you with determining exactly what preventative care your pet needs based upon your pet’s lifestyle. For example, cats who stay indoors require fewer preventative services and generally suffer fewer accidents and illnesses than cats who spend time outdoors. Keeping your cat indoors will decrease the cost of veterinary care.
Consider splitting your annual preventative care visit into two visits 4 to 6 weeks (or more) apart, which will allow you to split the total amount due into two payments.
Ask about preventative care “bundles” of services. Many practices offer discounts on an entire package of preventative care. In addition, product manufacturers frequently offer incentives if you purchase a certain amount of product at one time. Your practice team can provide you with all the details of the offers available.
Does your veterinary practice offer a rewards program? Participation in this type of program can save you hundreds of dollars per year! Lake Road Animal Hospital offers a Rewards Membership which earns you a percentage back on every dollar spent in the practice or the boarding kennel. You do have to pay to enroll annually, but your enrollment fee does come with a complimentary examination and nail trim, which very nearly pays for the cost of enrollment.
The following is a list of payment options which can also assist with taking some of the sting out of the cost of veterinary care.
1. Pet Savings Account. You might consider setting up a pet savings account that you make deposits to on a set schedule to ensure that you have cash available when your pet requires veterinary care. This requires a very disciplined approach to saving!
2. Traditional Credit Cards. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express are options for payment at many practices. Utilizing a credit card to pay for veterinary services will allow you to pay for services over an extended period of time. However; all credit cards carry an interest rate, which increases the total cost you will pay for veterinary care.
3. Medical Credit Cards. This type of credit card is one which is accepted only by medical providers, most of which provide services which are not routinely covered by health insurance, such as dentists, plastic surgeons, and ophthalmologists. Care Credit is likely the most recognized medical credit card, but there are several. Care Credit can also be utilized for your pets, and is accepted by many veterinarians. You must complete an application with the financial institution that manages Care Credit, and approval is based upon your creditworthiness. Care Credit does offer some no interest plans on charges. Be aware that if you fail to pay the original balance in full by the deadline, you will be responsible for paying ALL the interest that would have been charged on the original amount applied to your account! In addition, the interest rates on these cards is higher than on traditional credit cards.
4. Pet Insurance. There are at least 14 companies offering pet insurance in the US today, but not all companies offer coverage in each state. Pet insurance allows you to pay a monthly premium to the insurance company for specified coverage. All pet insurance at this time requires that the pet owner pay all veterinary bills in full, and submit invoices for reimbursement from the insurance company. Coverage available varies from accidental only to comprehensive wellness care with accident and illness. Most plans require you to choose an annual deductible amount, as well as a reimbursement percentage (70% to 100%). The monthly premium varies dramatically based upon your choices. We strongly encourage owners to extensively research the options available to them at Pet Insurance Review. This site provides tips on choosing a company and plan, as well as customer reviews of companies. In addition, you can collect quotes from several companies very quickly through this site.
5. Payment Plans. If you are an established client with an excellent payment history, you may be able to negotiate with your veterinary practice for a payment plan. Many practices will accept a down-payment followed by monthly payments for unexpected expenses. However; the term of a payment plan like this is generally quite short (3 to 4 months). Another option which may be available at some practices is a third party company that will automatically debit a biweekly or monthly payment from your bank account or credit card and forward your payment to the veterinary practice. A down payment is generally required, but payments can be scheduled for a longer term. Creditworthiness is a factor in approval but is not the only factor. Most pet owners do qualify for this type of payment plan. The fees incurred for utilizing payment plans are likely equitable to the interest that would be charged for using credit cards, depending on the terms of repayment. Lake Road Animal Hospital has recently begun working with Vet Billing, and can now offer extended payment plans to many of our clients for unexpected, surgical, and dental care expenses.
Your veterinary team understands that each client and patient has different needs. The great veterinary team will always advocate what is best for your pet, but can also be a resource on how to manage the financial obligations of that care. Veterinary teams need to focus on the medicine, but we can also offer some solutions for the wallet.
Written by Carrie Bowgren, Practice Manager at Lake Road Animal Hospital