Hello! (My snark factor may be on high right now because of a migraine, so I’m sorry if this reply comes off that way. :) )
First of all, I’m glad you have a plan set up for your pet for wellness care. It’s super important to get those wellness items taken care of, and I hope your vet includes things like heartworm testing and general bloodwork in that. Also, KUDOS for you going twice a year! I wish even a tenth of my clients did that!
Your $35 per month comes to a total of $420 per year, which more than covers the amount you would pay at the $200/visit setup, and offers a fair discount to the $300/visit one–an amount that most likely comes out of the markup for vaccines (yes, we have to mark things up, we can’t do everything at cost and no I am not talking to you daughterofthestars I am talking to the great wide yonder of people who don’t like that) and a little bit from the general bits and bobs that are considered part of the exam. Not everything is marked down, there’s a decent savings for you, and we still make some money and more importantly get contact time with you and your pet.
Banfield does health plans. But there is a growing pattern of veterinarians offering FREE VACCINES!!!!!11!!1!11!!!!!1
… My sarcasm got away from me there. Again, this isn’t aimed at you–just at the very gentle way this nudges people towards better health care for their pets.
The way it works is this–people opt in to a specific program that allows for completely free vaccines for the life of the pet, as long as you agree to come in and pay for bi-annual wellness exams. During those exams, the veterinarian will recommend tests, cleanings, etcetera. The goal being that without the worry over vaccines in the way, owners will pay more attention to the little bits and bobs that we want them to consider. And IT WORKS!
And there is nothing wrong with it. If it gets that animal in twice a year for us to make sure they’re doing okay, makes us able to catch masses that are growing a little too quickly for our tastes or allows us to spot a fractured tooth that we can resolve before it gets painful or infected or becomes the gateway to an oronasal fistula… I am all for it. And again, the vaccines are covered in the end. Win win.
As for the other point you made about payments, the problem with the hospital itself offering payment plans for these things is that A) not all people are honest and willing to pay bills and B) emotions get in the way of judgement. Sad to say, but true. Scenario:
Mr. Doe’s dog just got hit by a car–holy fudge muffins, amIright? He FLIES to the NEAREST veterinarian and tells them “Do whatever you can to save Fluffy.” Well alright then. Exam fee (+/- emergency fee depending on the time of day/hospital you go to), pain management, radiographs, fluids to help with shock/blood loss, further pain management, bloodwork to check for amount of blood loss, acid/base status. Assuming your pet’s pretty banged up but not broken, this is a fair summary of what happens. And is somewhere between $500-700.
Mr. Doe has a heart attack. “I can’t afford this–I work for minimum wage and I only have $20 in my checking account right now!”
Firstly, shame on the vet for not warning Mr. Doe about these costs before building them up. And now this guy REALLY needs a payment plan. But he’s never been to this veterinarian before–it was just the nearest one. How is this veterinarian to know that Mr. Doe will pay them back if they offer him credit? I hate to be pessimistic but many people I’ve worked with as a technician, prior to my veterinary career, promised to pay and then never did. (They would eventually go to claims court and then were fired as clients.) Emergency clinics are in this situation constantly because just about everyone they meet is a new client and just about everyone is unprepared for the emergency they’re in.
My own hospital only offers payment plans to clients with an established record at our hospital. They’ve come in multiple times and paid their bills at appointment time, every time. And if given a payment plan in the past, they paid that off reasonably too.
Fortunately, there is at least one option. CareCredit is an established company that evaluates credit score and likely reliability of payments. It is available at (most) vet hospitals. You need two forms of ID and you may need a co-signer, and the time limit to pay your bill off before interest starts accruing can be pretty short. But it is there. They also give us reliable payments so we can keep the lights on and the fluid pumps running, and if an owner stops paying the bill, it’s their job to go after them in claims court.
I agree that part of the problem is that costs are high for veterinary medicine. This gets back to insurance talks and the like, and how we buy our products from the same places as human medical facilities but don’t have insurance to buffer our costs, therefore seem more expensive. But I digress. My point–the human race is unreliable; we can’t have nice things if a few people ruin it for everyone else.
Now I end this post with a hopeful question that will provide more resources for everyone. I hope others will answer: Do you know of any other options besides Care Credit? I’ll start linking them below.
- CareCredit (You can apply online–this credit is also good for some dentists and ophthalmologists)
- Humane Society (List of financial aid organizations intended for pet medical expenses)