Q: In the past our veterinarian always offered us a payment plan whenever the bill was too high for us to pay all at once. But now that he’s sold his practice, the new management won’t allow payment plans. Our dog Brandy needs surgery for her bladder stone, and we don’t know how we’ll be able to afford it. Do you have any suggestions?
A: It’s true. Veterinarians rarely offer payment plans anymore. In our defense, that’s because the default rate on these loans are sky high. As much as they may adore their veterinarians, many pet owners are willing to put their veterinarians at the bottom of the pile when it come to paying their bills.
Veterinarians, many pet owners assume, are willing to absorb these losses because they love animals. Isn’t that why they went to vet school in the first place?
Unfortunately, veterinarians are like you. As much as we may love our patients, our practices are businesses. It’s how we pay our bills at the end of the month. Every time we offer our clients a loan we put our businesses and families at risk. And let’s be honest, veterinary hospitals are not banks. Lending money strays far from our core competency.
Nevertheless, most veterinarians are sensitive to issues surrounding prices and payment for our services. We know it’s tough out there, which is why we’re almost always prepared to help. Here’s how:
▪ A “sliding scale” of offerings. Veterinarians don’t always know if you’re experiencing financial stress. That’s why you should always tell us. Once you do, we’ll be better equipped to offer you a range of diagnostic and treatment options that might better suit your budget.
▪ Many forms of payment. Veterinarians can help clients out by accepting multiple forms of payment, including personal checks, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express and the like. Some of us will even barter.
▪ Third-party payment plans. This is a growing sector of the pet healthcare industry. These plans work like credit cards. For those who qualify, they’re a great way of financing an unexpected vet bill. CareCredit is the most popular.
▪ Pet health insurance. If you get a pet and know you’ll have trouble paying for expensive treatments, why wouldn’t you invest in a financial product with the power to save your pet’s life?
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.