As practicing veterinarians, we are constantly faced with pet owners making that difficult decision between life and death, treatment or euthanasia. And, unfortunately, more often than not, the decision is financially based.
In the process of discussing the nature of the needed care, we frequently offer the client “options” for treatment: radiographs vs. labwork; medication vs. surgery; IV fluids vs. SQ fluids. While discussing the cost of recommended care, we also need to offer the “options” for payment.
Two of these options—pet insurance and third-party payment plans—were once thought to be competitive entities. Actually, they are quite synergistic. Here’s how:
Synergy at Work
In its business definition, synergy can be defined as a state in which two or more agents, entities, factors, processes, substances or systems work together in a particularly fruitful way that produces an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects. It’s also expressed as “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
The owner of an insured pet has the security and peace of mind of knowing that if her pet becomes ill she has the insurance to reimburse a portion of what she has paid out. The pain her pet is suffering does not have to be matched by the pain her pocket book suffers.
Often, owners of insured pets will be more open to approving additional and frequently more costly treatment plans. Studies also have shown that insured patients will visit the veterinarian more often than owners of uninsured pets.
We know that many of our clients want the best care for their pet. With pet insurance, they have the assuredness of being reimbursed for the covered cost of care. However, even with the expectation of future reimbursements, having to pay a veterinary bill at the time of service can influence their decision to move forward with care.
Enter third-party payment plans, such as CareCredit.
These plans allow clients to pay for treatment at the time of service. The immediacy of a veterinarian’s offering a third-party payment plan allows the client to pay you, the veterinarian, today. The client then makes monthly payments to the financing provider, much like other major credit cards. The difference is that if the client pays off the full amount by the end of a six-month credit plan, for instance, he avoids paying any interest.
How do the pet insurance plus third-party payment methods synergize?
Imagine the following: Mrs. Smith comes in with her mixed-breed puppy for his first visit. In addition to the usual clinical discussions, your client service or exam room nurse team discusses with Mrs. Smith the puppy’s needs for the next year and beyond. Your staff suggests the importance of being prepared for the costs to provide care for the puppy. Giving the best care is important, and pet health insurance will help offset the costs of not only emergency care, but also can cover preventive wellness care.
During the same visit, you provide Mrs. Smith the opportunity to apply for a third-party payment plan. She can pay for all the recommended care for her puppy, plus needed parasite control, food, etc. With her new line of credit, she is readily able to pay for care at this visit and any time her puppy may need it.
Do you really need both insurance and a third-party payment plan? Absolutely. Here is where synergy comes in.
When Both Are Used
Puppy Smith eats some panty hose and two days later has a 4-inch incision on its belly while Mrs. Smith incurs a $1,500 incision in her financial security. With her dedicated line of credit, Mrs. Smith pays the bill immediately and the practice receives its payment within two days. The practice helps Mrs. Smith file her claim with her insurance company. Within a few weeks, Mrs. Smith receives a check from her insurance company. Mrs. Smith uses the reimbursement to pay down the balance on her credit line, leaving a much smaller balance, and she still has plenty of time to pay off the balance before any interest is applied.
Mrs. Smith is happy because she has a surgically repaired puppy, a pet insurance policy that helped her offset the cost of care and a flexible third-party monthly payment that allows her the financial flexibility to pay according to her budget.
Without the payment plan, Mrs. Smith would have been required to pay at the time of service for the cost of care and wait for the insurance reimbursement. Without the insurance company, Mrs. Smith would have been responsible for 100 percent of the bill. Without either, Puppy Smith may have become a statistic or a financial burden.
The synergy of pet insurance and a third-party payment plan gives the pet owner multiple levels of peace of mind that are not available with either alone.