Veterinarian Admits He Is In It For The Money

It’s true. I am. Sort of.

Being a veterinarian is my profession. Like any other professional in any line of work, I expect to be paid for practicing my craft. I don’t think that makes me a bad person. Quite the opposite really. I took the time to think out what profession would make me the happiest and what profession I had the most to offer to and I went out and became a professional in that exact field. When you put it like that, it’s really kind of admirable.

Still, somehow I hear from people that vets charge too much and should do more for the love of the animals. I understand that sentiment and in a way I do actually share it. I have said it before and I meant it, I would do this job for free.

But I can’t. And frankly, I don’t want to. I like money, it allows me to do stuff that makes me happy. Like stopping with my kids to buy them “soda” on the way home from school. Sodas are the flavored juice like drinks in kid sized bottles you find at most convenience stores. We get them about once a month. Money pays for the gas in my car, it pays for my house and our groceries. Also electricity, health insurance, oil for the furnace and someday it will allow me to stop working and still afford all of those things.

Even if I had enough money to pay for all of those things for the rest of my life, it would still cost money to provide veterinary care. So it would still cost money to come and see me. I also expect the staff to want to earn money for their hard work. So there you go.

How much should it cost? I touched on this a little bit in a post about the expense of having pets. Because this is a business and needs to earn money, in reality it costs as much as the majority of people are willing to pay. That’s sort of an underlying fundamental of economics. If there are 100 people who will pay $30 for an exam but 80 of those people will also pay $45. You charge $45. You make almost 20% more money doing 20% less work. It’s kind of silly not to. If you had 1 person out of every hundred who would pay $4,000 for an exam and you felt comfortable charging that much, you should. I couldn’t do it. But I have self esteem issues.

I know what you’re thinking. I should want to help as many pets as I possibly can. I don’t know how else to put this. I am not a superhero. No veterinarian is. The thing about trying to be all things to all people is this: when anyone does that, everyone loses. I can’t see all the pets I would like to see in a single day and still maintain the standard of service that I hold myself to. It’s much the same way I struggle to be available all hours of the day and night and provide that same level of care. No one can do it. Anyone who says they can should have been a politician instead. By limiting the number of patients I see in a single day I am able to spend more time, be more thorough and create a more personal relationship with my patients and their owners. For people who shop for veterinary service based on price, Walgreen’s will be offering that service through a company called Shot Vet.

In actuality, if I was only in it for the money, I would do something along the lines of Shot Vet. Brief exam, packaged vaccine and preventative care options and low expectations. Even at the lowest cost package; I would make the same amount of money or more by seeing patients assembly line style. That’s assuming only a slightly higher number of patients each day than I currently see.

But this is my craft, I take a lot of pride in it. So does your veterinarian. We all work to provide the best medical care we possibly can within the confines of each situation and we do our best to charge appropriately for it. I could see four times as many patients and make more money by offering less expensive but also less thorough and lower standard services, but I take pride in knowing my clients and their pets, I take pride in offering complete veterinary care that is second to none. I don’t want to be good and make lots of money. I want to be great and make an honest living. I promise you, your veterinarian feels the same way.

So yes, we are in it for the money but I like to think we’re in it for the money in the same way Jim Koch of Boston Beer Company – they brew Samuel Adams and are the largest U.S. owned brewery – is in it for the money and not the way that the CEO of InBev – the Belgian-Brazilian corporation that owns Budweiser – is in it for the money.

Thanks for reading.

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34 thoughts on “Veterinarian Admits He Is In It For The Money

  1. Love this. As a veterinary student I currently have the luxury of learning how to provide optimal care in a money-less world, but I know that once I’m out in practice doing the best for the patient under financial constraints will be a big challenge every day. It seems so silly, but in this field one has to remember why it’s important to charge for services, (not to mention explain and defend that position) and this article really sums it up nicely. Thanks 🙂

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    • Vet school isn’t “moneyless”. Your clients are paying for all those ivory tower amenities. They may be as reasonably priced as possible, but not free. As a student, you’re just not required to deal with it.

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      • Yes very true when it comes to real patients! I meant more that we learn the gold standard of care in the classroom, and while certainly that standard is strived for in the clinic it may not always be possible due to financial constraints of the client.

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      • While you are spot on Somer, if you can’t offer or at least recommend the gold standard then you are essentially choosing a lesser option for each of your patients. That’s not fair.

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      • Oh absolutely! I definitely understand the need to learn, comprehend, and provide the gold standard of care in order to do the best we can by our patients and our clients. I just also know that there is (unfortunately!) occasionally a discrepancy between that gold standard and what a particular client may be able to afford. I think my original comment may have been misconstrued, all I meant by it is that there is a difference between the theoretical, classroom learning that happens in school, and realistic, practical learning that happens during clinical year and after graduation. Both are valuable and essential to practice good medicine, but they aren’t the same.

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      • Your original comment was as clear as a comment in a comment section of a blog should ever need to be. You have the luxury right now of seeing the clients that accept and are willing to pay for referral and gold standard care. The conversation just detoured a touch! I have found and continue to find, that the practice of veterinary medicine in the clinical setting compared to the University setting are far more similar than they are disparate. Only my role has changed!
        Thanks again for reading and contributing to the conversation.

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  2. Wish I could compact your words into a laminated flash card and hand it out to every client who wants us to do services for free, since they just spent their last dime at the nail salon. Better yet, have this looped into our phone system while clients wait on hold to tear us a new one for daring to charge them to “do whatever it takes” to diagnose their pet’s illness that’s been going on for 6 months but they had to have it seen today….because they leave this afternoon for their 3 week cruise. I’ve been the office manager at my clinic for 20 years. I’ve seen it all and heard it all. There apparently is a hidden payment clause somewhere in the stratosphere that people believe that they don’t need to pay for veterinary services. Or that it’s ok not to have money to pay because, hey, it was an emergency, right? I just want to bop them on their foreheads like the V-8 juice commercial….

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  3. Like Karen I too wish I could hand out a compact laminated card of your words. I also am the manager of our hospital and am also the “creative financial” person who comes up with how they are going to pay their bill, BEFORE they receive services. I have seen it and heard it all. I’m often asked by people who make it their hobby of rescuing if we do pro-bono work. My answer is yes, we do plenty of pro-bono work. the Dr has a certain amount of “pro-bono funds” each year, and it’s usually for emergency services not elective surgery or care and when she reaches that amount, it’s my job to remind her she has spent it. Payment plans don’t work because as soon as the pet goes out the front door with the owner, the vets office is now the last man on the totem pole to be paid. Sometimes depending on how serious the “financial talk” is going I mention that my staff won’t take payments on their paycheck and I have kids to feed. LOL They usually come up with a credit card or a way to pay.

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  4. Great article, would you come talk to everyone here who thinks that making a living is a bad thing? THank you for this article.

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  5. I do agree everyone should be able to make a living. I have practiced traditionally and it left a very bad taste in my mouth. I know what things cost and what is charged for them. I also know most vet clinics are over staffed and poorly managed. I have been doing this close to 20 years. Let’s not forget who really suffers when playing the price games. It’s the pet. That 6 month old rottweiler puppy that didn’t get vaccines because the office visit was $50 and the shots were 45 and the clients had to pay the mortgage instead. This puppy shows up at the emergency clinic with parvo and we all know what happens next…’We’ll put your puppy down for free, the parvo test is positive.’ Should the people own a dog? Probably not, but they do. So just kill the puppy problem solved. But it’s not, because they will get another puppy and still not be able to afford vaccines but this time when it gets sick, it first spreads parvo at the dog park and Mrs Johnson, who will pay anything and has a 9 week old Yorkiepoo, loses the puppy to parvo after it plays with the Rottweiller.
    I see the pets turned away from other vets all the time. I try to pick up the pieces after the pet owner spends hundreds of dollars on inappropriate testing instead of a GOOD physical exam and treatment.
    Rather than saying that those of us who choose to provide low cost services are ‘assembly lines,” you should appreciate the fact that there is someone out there to see these people.
    There is nothing wrong with making a decent living, but our profession has changed so much in the past 20 years. More and more the discussions are about how we can make more money. I assure you that you will always make enough money if you take good care of your patients and they know it. Adding sneaky little charges like bio hazard fees is what pisses your clients off. Having million dollar buildings and making your clients wait an hour while 5 receptionists chat with each other and text pisses your clients off. We all hate the human Healthcare system so what did we do? We try to copy it. Charging a fair price is fine, charging more just because you can….well, it kind of makes me ashamed to be a vet these days. I used to think like most vets…”work smarter, not harder.” What’s wrong with hard work?
    I love my profession. I still get excited when I diagnose a rare condition and really helping someone never gets old. I make a good living and could probably double it but it’s just money after all…when is it enough?

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    • Lois, thank you for reading and for taking the time to give me such heartfelt and candid feedback. I appreciate your perspective and in many ways I share it 100%. To me it comes down to effectively communicating to owners when it comes to making recommendations and then finding a common ground that is good for everyone. Especially the pet. With your parvo example, if we understood that the client was under serious financial constraints I guarantee we could find a way to make sure that puppy was protected. But I wouldn’t do it by giving away the 1/2 hour of professional time a puppy visit takes up. Nor do I consider veterinary clinics who deal more in quantity than “quality” to be inferior. Some people want a vet who takes the time, knows their kids and is more like a barber or pharmacist and some don’t. No judgement there. I am a little put out by companies like Shot Vet but who cares what I think, I’m not important and they meet a demand.
      Ultimately I think it comes down to informed consent which in turn comes down to communication. I’m sure you offer the best medicine you can every single time but I see plenty of lower cost clinics who make the decision to choose the cheapest option for the client. That’s not fair either. I have a few other posts that touch on these subjects.

      https://heathmcnuttdvm.wordpress.com/2015/04/24/having-pets-is-expensive/

      https://heathmcnuttdvm.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/the-critical-nature-of-good-communication/

      https://heathmcnuttdvm.wordpress.com/2015/05/05/the-hardest-part-of-the-job/

      Thanks again for reading and for the feedback.

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    • I just noticed the part that asks when is enough money enough, at the risk of sounding greedy, for me it would be when our income above our fixed costs (healthcare, daycare, mortgage, student loans) was $25-30k for our family of five. That would buy our groceries, fuel for the cars, oil for the furnace and any sort of extras we might need. Right now we live off about $15k after fixed expenses.

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      • I don’t think your reply was greedy. Enough money to me is the same thing. If, at the end of the day, I have enough to pay the staff, pay myself and pay the bills with a little extra left over, I am happy. What I fear though is this overwhelming talk all the time about average invoices for the practice etc. The goal should always be doing what is best for the animal, regardless of the profit or lack thereof.
        I have found that always doing what’s best for the pet is not only right, it’s profitable, even at a low cost clinic it’s still profitable. Clients are not as uneducated as some of us may think. The danger is that when the prices get high enough, they may just stop seeking out veterinary care at all. That is when everyone loses.

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  6. I agree to a point. As an animal lover I go without to make sure my dogs are cared for. I try to trim my own hair,and make my own detergents so my babies get quality food and proper vet care. Now with the rise in costs I’m forced to go to the pet store when shots are need now that some vets charge over 50 for 1 shot! I understand some pricing but I have also learned the vet clinic I used to go only cares about money and not the pet so now I have a hard time trusting vets anymore

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  7. I agree with both you and Lois Lassiter, and I agree that it’s difficult to balance both perspectives. I have seen a change in Vet practices in the past 40 years…since the days I worked in a Vet’s office in the 70’s, and it hasn’t been good. At that time, the Vet who owned the practice was much more patient and owner focused than the Vets are today. He loved the animals and did what he could for them, despite their sometimes difficult owners, no matter what their financial situation was. I can remember him talking about some of his older customers actually paying him via the barter system…and this wasn’t a country Vet. He still made house calls too..for his established customers. To top it all off, he was an excellent Vet. He was the President of the AVMA at the time I worked there. The office staff were all animal lovers as well, and made the customers and their pets feel welcome and comfortable. There was a great mix of compassion and efficiency in that practice. He made a very good living for himself, and the pets and their owners loved him. I’ve had exactly ONE other Vet in 40 years who was as good as he was, although that Vet wasn’t as much of a “people person”… but he was excellent with animals. They loved him. So as long as the pet was happy and well treated, the owners were happy. He also made concessions for the animal’s well-being if the people had difficulty paying. And his office staff was top notch. He is the founder of the AHVMA…and was an excellent Vet that we could trust and depend on. Perhaps I’m spoiled because I’ve had years of interaction with two GREAT Vets, but I find today’s Vets and especially their office staff severely lacking in so many areas. The Vets may be good at running a zillion tests to diagnose an illness, and actually treating and maybe even curing it, but their bedside manner has become too businesslike and lacking in communication with the owners of the pets. They’re often brusque, or don’t LISTEN to the pet’s owner. They get the basic history of the issue, but they don’t listen to the concerns, or hear the subtle clues that the owner may be trying to tell them about the situation. Sometimes it takes some detective work to find out what’s really going on…and if they communicated better with their customers, they’d gather more information. The office staff could be more attentive to the customers in the waiting room as well. I’m also sick of the staff playing around, joking and downright ignoring the customers and their pets who are sitting there waiting endlessly for their appointment that’s running an hour and a half late. And then there is the dramatic increase in charges that this blog is about. I feel that if a Vet offers excellent treatment for the pet, along with excellent communication and a nice, efficient atmosphere in a difficult time, then yes, they are worth their weight in gold, and I’ll happily pay it. But for what I’ve been seeing over the past years…no, I’m not one bit happy about paying for pages of diagnostics along with hating being “at the Vet”. I have accident and illness insurance on my pets up to $15K a year. It’s very good coverage which covers all diagnostics and treatment…even alternative treatments, so I can and have said “do whatever it takes”, but over the past years, I don’t like the way I’m treated, and don’t like the way my animals are just a number. For the money I’m paying, I do expect not only gold standard medical care, but I expect the Vet to LISTEN to me when I’m discussing my thoughts on what’s going on with my pet and call me back when I call to find out what the results of the diagnostics were that I just paid hundreds of dollars for. Don’t make me call day after day after day. Oh, and the people who can’t pay the high charges? To circumvent that for future treatment, have someone in the practice who can sit down with them and explain that there is pet insurance, what it does, how it can help them, and give them the phone numbers to call and talk to the insurance reps for some quality companies. Some offer only wellness coverage…others offer everything…wellness, accident and illness, all diagnostics, Rx, dental. They have a full menu of coverage choices as well as co-pays, deductibles and annual maximums. Explain what Care Credit is and give them some information about that. You could also give them a list of organizations that can help with medical costs for their pets if they’re really in need and have no money for insurance and are not able to get credit. They exist as well. HELP the people who don’t know about these things. That way you’ll keep the customers and also get paid. And they’ll actually like you and trust you. You won’t have to pick and choose who can pay and who can’t. It’s a great burden lifted off a customer’s shoulders when they can say “do whatever it takes” when they get that dreaded news that their dog/cat needs expensive treatment or surgery and that it is going to cost them thousands of dollars. I have friends who have paid up to $25K to save their pet…because, they have insurance. If you help your customers, you’re helping yourself. And, it’s all part of doing business isn’t it?

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    • I really appreciate your feedback and your point of view. I agree 100% that communication is far and away the most important part of a veterinarian/client relationship. Unfortunately, in my opinion (and I recognize I might be wrong) the selection process used by veterinary schools selects based on academic achievement which might not be the best reflection of an individual’s ability to relate to people. I personally think it would be better if as part of a student’s pre-veterinary training they had to tend bar for a Summer to learn how to listen and relate but I’m weird.
      A lot has changed since the 1970’s. Including the communication modality we are currently using. We now have more options for treatments and diagnostics and have the responsibility to make our clients aware of their options. I sort of covered this in an article entitles “Pets are expensive.” What we are often tasked with is meeting a demand that requires us to practice like Dr. House while trying to stay in a Dr. Herriot budget and we have to live with the outcomes. I plan to touch on that over the Summer.
      To be candid and risk being overly blunt, I doubt many practices are going to be willing to devote staff time (money) to informing all pet owners about pet insurance, charities and other options. Just as we aren’t willing to devote the time and resources to payment plans. There isn’t a return on the investment and asking our clients who can and do pay for our services to subsidize other people’s pet care (which is what happens when we offer discounts based on need) is incredibly unfair.
      From my opinion, pet insurance is good for people who don’t have the financial discipline to have a savings account for their pets. For most of my clients setting up a savings account with Ally or ING, putting a few hundred to a few thousand in there when you get a dog or cat and transferring money from each paycheck is a reasonable alternative and you get to keep the money you don’t use.

      Thanks again for your perspective. I appreciate it and please keep reading.

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      • I do understand what you’re saying about the advances in diagnostics and treatment, as well as poor communication skills of Vets these days, and may address some of it later, but let me touch on something you mentioned at the bottom of your reply to me. “Pet insurance is good for people who don’t have the financial discipline to set up a savings account for their pets”. Seriously? With the cost for accidents and illness diagnosis and treatment these days? I strongly disagree, and I’ll give you one example why….

        My dog, who we had to put down a year ago was a giant breed. They cost much more for everything, as you know. He had just turned 4 years old when his illness suddenly struck. After all was said and done between the ER Vet, our Vet, and the Vet Neurosurgeon, his total bill came to $10,400. Insurance paid $7520 (80%) and we paid the other 20% + $800 deductible ($2880). Now…say we set aside $500 in a health account for him when we got him at 10 weeks of age and added $50 a month for 45 mos instead of getting accident and illness insurance. That would bring our “savings account” to a grand total of $2750. We’re at a negative $130 just for out of pocket expenses – never mind the rest of it. Granted we paid $28 a month for those 45 months of coverage which totals $1250. So deduct that from the amount insurance paid, bringing it down to $6270, which was only for his diagnosis (since treatment wasn’t possible). IF the Neurosurgeon had been able to do surgery, it would have cost MUCH more than that. We’d have used up the $15K annual max easily, and still wouldn’t have had more than $2750 in our savings account. In the end, we had $10K in bills in a matter of days, and a young dog we had to put down.

        Now, as far as costs vs savings go, none of this takes into account what we might have pulled out of that savings for less costly things over that 4 years, like a UTI, or an ear infection, staph (skin), Lyme etc. but we were fortunate with him and didn’t have to, since he never had any reason to go to the Vet except for wellness check ups, which we pay ourselves. In that, I agree with you. Wellness insurance not something I recommend because I feel that it’s part of the normal cost of owning a pet. I don’t understand the purpose unless the insurance is being used as a forced savings account. BUT…it does cover spay and neuter, along with vaccines and checkups, so for some who have sticker shock when first getting a pet, it’s probably a good idea for the pet’s health overall. It’s just not sensible to me. I feel that if you can’t afford basic care…don’t get a pet.

        Yous said that you recommend that people set up an account and initially put in hundreds or thousands (???) of dollars, and then deposit a certain amount monthly for pet care, but most dog/cat owners that I’ve run into just don’t have that kind of money sitting around. We could have just used our credit cards, or pulled the money from savings, as many do, but why? That would be poor money management. Insurance is a better option IMO.

        We currently own 6 giant breed dogs, so it’s important that we have insurance for them. The cost for insurance for all 6 per month has saved us a great deal of money over the years because yes, we do use it for more minor issues (the ones that *only* cost hundreds of dollars versus thousands or tens of thousands), when one of the dogs has a problem. But, we got it from the start specifically because of the risk for costly genetic issues and the high incidence of bloat and cruciate injuries in this breed. You know that if one cruciate goes, the chances are that the other will go in a short period of time. So that’s two surgeries on a giant breed, usually only months apart. Fortunately none of ours have any genetic defects (they’ve all been tested and are clear), but they could have. Surgery for HD or ED, for example, isn’t inexpensive, and is usually done early in the dog’s life, before that savings account would have had a chance to grow. And then there is the dreaded cancer which can strike a dog of any age. One can purchase a new car for the cost of treatment. But if they have insurance, many people will opt to try to save their beloved pet, when otherwise they can’t even consider it.

        Therefore, once again, I heartily disagree with you about illness and accident insurance, through a good company (and there are several). It’s a lifesaver for many pets, and is a great weight lifted off the shoulders of the owners who love them during a very stressful and heart-wrenching time. Plus, it helps you (or any Vet). How many pets have you seen put down that could have been saved (and how much money have you, the Vet who’s “in it for the money” lost) because the owners just can’t afford to pay the cost of treatment for a serious condition these days? Many can’t even afford an MRI or other costly diagnostic tests to find out what’s wrong.

        The economy isn’t good no matter what the Govt says, and a lot of people are trying to stay afloat themselves, but when they love their pets, they will pay the relatively small monthly cost for insurance (which is much less expensive than we pay for giants if their dog is “regular sized” or smaller – or if they have cats), because they know they can’t afford to cover the high cost if something goes wrong.

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      • Wow that comment might have been longer than my original post! 😉 In your examples I would be inclined to absolutely agree with you, in that case insurance makes sense. That is not the situation most people find themselves in. I understand that my take on managing finances is a tad extreme but I would still consider there to be better options even in your situation and while this isn’t the venue I’d be willing to bet you and I could come to an agreement on that. But most of the pet owners I know and see are getting young dogs from rescue groups in the South and they come with most of their first year stuff done. A few hundred dollars and say $40 per month in a Vanguard or Betterment account will protect against most unforeseen expenses with the understanding that routine care needs to be worked into the family budget.
        But yes for a family that owns six giant breeds (which sounds like a super awesome house by the way) would likely benefit from having insurance. I wrote about pet insurance a while back on my first blog A Vet’s View while my thoughts have evolved a touch I still would struggle to tell the average pet owner that insurance is going to save you money. But thank you for offering a different perspective, I don’t think you are wrong and I hope I don’t sound like I do. I just don’t consider your particular situation very common. Here’s an interesting article about the usefulness of insurance to the average person. It sort of lines up with my current thinking on the subject. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/06/02/insurance-a-tax-on-people-who-are-bad-at-math/

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  9. My Daughter and Son-in-Law are Vets. Leaving active duty Air Force I researched the time to pursue the degree, given a BS in Engineering Mechanics (USAFA) and an MBA. “Start at the beginning” I was told. The daughter I mentioned was six months old. The Vet degree became a dream. I now get to live vicariously through my children. I too ended up doing what I loved for the money I could earn – Airline Pilot. On occasion, people begrudged the salary I earned. My answer was always, “I was hired for the training and skill I possessed. If you needed heart surgery you would want the best heart surgeon, correct?” I know how hard I work, and I know how hard my kids work. I went to USAFA to become an Air Force pilot the hard way, because I loved to fly. I joined the “Long Blue Line” to serve, but the service always requires compensation. My careers always have been in “service”. Your’s is a noble profession. Compensation is part of all professions. Doctors are not grown on trees. Thank you the job you do!!!

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  11. Hello, I have read your blog and all the comments with great interest, as I’m a dog mom who started a business in an attempt to help both veterinarians AND pet owners overcome the cost barrier to care. AND to stop fighting about it and begin to see things from the other’s point of view. Vets need to be paid, but when a pet owner says “I can’t afford this treatment” – do they really have NO MONEY AT ALL, or are they saying “I can’t afford to pay for all of it immediately, TODAY”? I believe that there are many, many pet owners who would be happy for the chance to pay off their balance in installment payments. That is why I started VetBilling.com in late 2013. I think this is less about not wanting to pay and more about not being able to pay all of it, up front. Costs for emergencies are astronomical. Our dog recently had to have an emergency gastrotomy – all in, that was about $5000. We got back about $2000 from insurance. (And yes I am an advocate for pet insurance, but the monthly premium payments are too high for a lot of pet owners.) It took about 6 weeks before our reimbursement check came.

    My vision for VetBilling.com is that we reduce the frequency of economic euthanasia and owner surrenders by giving vets and pet owners an alternative when CareCredit (or other third-party credit-based provider) is NOT an option. And for a growing number of pet owners, CareCredit isn’t the solution, because they can’t get approved. With an approval rate of about 39% overall (higher in lower income areas), that leaves too many pet owners without a financing option WHEN IT IS MOST NEEDED. Those who need help the most, can’t get it – they are priced out of getting care for their animal. We are working hard to serve those pet owners – the ones who are responsible and simply need a way to pay their vet, that doesn’t send them into financial destabilization or devastation.

    Too many vets fear that clients won’t pay, and there is certainly validity to that fear. They have a long history of getting burned. That isn’t right, either. I want veterinarians to benefit from our services too. I want them to be able to accept cases that they might not otherwise be able to, due to financial constraints. I want them to not have to be uncomfortable when talking to clients about money. I want them to know that they will be paid, and to have peace of mind when offering an installment payment plan.

    That is what VetBilling.com is for – we function as a full-service billing department for veterinarians, so they CAN offer payment plans with little worry and minimal financial risk. We automatically draft payments from pet owner’s accounts, and we electronically deposit the payments in the veterinary practice’s bank account. The automatic payments increase the likelihood of payment compliance – no one has to mail an invoice, or write a check, or call up the vet’s office with credit card information.

    If there is a problem with a transaction – a payment declines or returns, it is VetBilling.com who intervenes. Our goal is to keep pet owners on track with their payments, and to preserve and protect the relationship bond that owners have with their veterinarians.

    Yes, we have all the “big guns” at our disposal for collecting on delinquent accounts. We can find you, and we report to the credit bureaus. BUT – we see hardly any delinquency with veterinary payment plans. Less than 3%. So it’s important to note that 97% of the time, we are able to process payments without any problem.

    I wish more veterinarians were open to the idea of using us. Many are focused on wanting money upfront, or focus on only the negative aspects of offering payment plans. Times are changing. Pet owners need payment options, because vet costs have skyrocketed – partly due to advances in treatment and diagnostics.

    And please don’t say “if I go to the grocery store I can’t get a payment plan” or “if I buy gas at the gas station they won’t give me a payment plan.” Pets are not groceries. Pets are not THINGS. For most of us, they are family members, and we love them in the same way we love our human children. When a vet says “sorry we can’t help you, if you can’t pay we can either euthanize your pet or you can surrender him to us” – imagine what it would be like if someone at the hospital said that to you about your CHILD. It is no different for those of us who love our pets.

    Thank you for writing this blog post, and for your sensitivity to this issue. It isn’t black or white, and both sides need to come to a better understanding of what the other is really dealing with.

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    • Thank you for reading and for the comment. I came across your business when I was researching some topics for this post: https://heathmcnuttdvm.com/2015/04/24/having-pets-is-expensive/ and I thought for the time frame you’ve been around you’ve made pretty good headway with getting veterinary clinics on board. If you can keep the ball rolling I could see you replacing care credit in the not so distant future.
      I am actually including your business in a post I am working on about financing veterinary care so keep reading or better yet subscribe!
      The big problem with payment plans is that we are a narrow margin cash flow dependent industry. A typical 3 doctor practice will do $1.5M in revenue this year. Of that almost $600k will go to wages, that is a weekly expense. Another $500k will go to purchasing medical supplies this is also typically a weekly expense. Broken down weekly, they make about $29k a week and spend $11.5k on salaries and $9.6k on supplies. If a third of their clients financed their care over 6 months, it wouldn’t take very long for them to not have the cash flow to make pay roll or order supplies.
      That argument aside, I think what you’re doing is awesome for those cases you alluded to and we have discussed and will continue to discuss using vetbilling.com as an option. Especially for those heart wrenching cases.
      Thanks again for the feedback and keep reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dr. McNutt, thank you for responding! I have already subscribed to your blog 🙂 I do realize that VetBilling.com doesn’t have THE perfect solution, but I firmly believe we can contribute to mitigating the problem of cost keeping clients away from veterinary clinics. In almost all the practices we serve, the % of clients who truly need an installment payment option is a negligible amount – nowhere near 1/3 of all clients. It is less than 3%, and in lots of cases less than 1%! Many practices have been afraid that once they started offering our payment plans, every client would want a payment plan for everything. That hasn’t happened ANYWHERE. However, we train and counsel our clients and assist them in developing internal policies around how and when to offer a VetBilling.com payment plan. We want to help the practices define policies that work for THEM, because each practice is different. Therefore WE don’t impose any structure on how the plans should be used, we offer guidance instead.

        For example we recommend that use of our payment plans be restricted to medical services ONLY. Clients should not be able to use payment plans to purchase food, medications or other retail items available at their vet. We encourage our vets to set policies around the minimum and maximum payment plan term they want to offer, and to stick with it. Exceptions to this should only be made on a case-by-case basis, and should be offered sparingly. We encourage practices to set parameters for the $ amount that is eligible for a payment plan. For some practices, the minimum balance eligible for a payment plan might be $250; for others, with a wealthier demographic, that minimum might be $750 or more. These figures would also vary depending on whether the practice is a 24/7 critical care facility, a general practice, or a specialty practice.

        I often tell practices that I talk to that we didn’t develop VetBilling.com as a tool for enabling deadbeats to get away with not paying for services. Our service is meant to help the growing number of responsible pet owners who – if they have a FICO score below 700 – are not going to be approved for CareCredit or any other credit-based financing plan. Since about 56% of Americans have a credit score below 700, and because recent statistics show that 65% of American households have at least one pet – there MUST be an alternative that offers a fair financial solution for both pet owners AND veterinarians that isn’t based on credit approval rates offered by lenders such as CareCredit. I truly hope that we can be that #1 alternative.

        There are lots of practices with aging A/R, because without an option like VetBilling.com, the payment plans that practices try to manage themselves – by invoicing clients monthly, or holding post-dated checks or credit card numbers – haven’t worked very well. These processes are also inefficient and eat up too much staff time that could otherwise be devoted to veterinary care, rather than to billing and collecting efforts.

        While practices are cash flow dependent, what we hope is that by offering a mix of payment options to clients, practices will also be developing a healthy revenue mix that will not negatively impact overall cash flow. When a practice has a number of active payment plans going, they are building a recurring revenue stream, too. And this recurring revenue means that payments will continue to flow into the practice even during slow periods.

        Numbers aside, what really matters to me is making a difference in the lives of people who love their pets. I want pets and their people to be able to stay together for as long as possible. I want to be the “rescue before the rescue is needed.” And with ongoing feedback from our client practices, we hope to steadily refine and perfect our system so it continues to meet their needs as well. It is really important to me – to our company – that we are providing a viable payment solution that is a “win-win,” for both vets and pet owners.

        THANK YOU for writing about us, and for being supportive of our mission! That means a great deal to me! Some days can be really hard, but when I feel like throwing in the towel, I look at a picture of a pet whose life was saved because of one of our payment plans, and I’m able to keep going. But I’m equally inspired by getting feedback from veterinarians that lets us know we are on the right track in helping them to solve a problem.

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  12. Pingback: The Value of your Veterinary Dollar: A Vet Student Perspective | Shannon Finn: Student Veterinarian

  13. Dr. McNutt, this is an awesome blog post. I love your writing style too. PS, we miss you at VDS. I hope all is well! -Genel

    Like

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