Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Payment predicament

By and large, veterinary clinics don't take payments. And generally speaking, this is because people don't make their payments. Especially if the pet dies. They will promise you everything under the sun and to the moon and back, but they don't make them. And sending to collections is only marginally productive.  In a perfect world, it wouldn't be that way. Clinics would have payment plans, people would make their payments, all pets would get ideal care, clinics get to provide the best options, everyone is happy. This is not a perfect world. Nor is the issue ever that simple. 

From the client standpoint it seems obvious, I want to do this to save my pet, all you have to do is let me pay it over x number of months or weeks. And since there is nothing physically or legally prohibiting the vet clinic from making that happen, then that's how it should be. 

Now, look at it from the veterinary clinic's point of view. If you don't have a savings account, a credit card, friend or family member who can loan you the money, why would the vet clinic? Why is it their responsibility to finance the medical emergency you were fully unprepared for? What if the emergency stems from client ignorance or irresponsibility? What if it's an unvaccinated puppy with parvo, an intact female with pyometra, a free roaming dog hit by a car? The veterinarian should still give you special treatment?  And what if it's a pet that has never received any veterinary care in its entire life, but now, suddenly, when it's an emergency that pet means "everything" and is a beloved family member? And what about when it's a dog that is just going to be put back out in the yard on a chain once it has been treated? Now the veterinary clinic gets to determine who is "deserving" of payment arrangements?  I'm sure that will go over like a PR nightmare. 

And who decides the terms of the payments? The client? What if they want to pay $10/month on their $1000 bill? Under any other circumstance you need to qualify for financing, and someone else tells you what the terms, and in most cases, the interest, will be. If a vet clinic needs to employ a financial department then guess what, costs are going to go up even more. 

And I get that some illnesses are unexpected, not preventable, and expensive. But if you choose to get a pet then you also need to think about what you will do if such a situation arises. You can get pet insurance, you can set up your own emergency fund and save money every month, apply for a credit card or Care Credit (put it away in a safe or freeze it in a block of ice if you have to but at least it's there if you need it).  It's your responsibility, just like when the car breaks down, the house needs a new roof, etc. 

Like it or not we all make pet owning decisions based on money. It might be how many pets we own, how well they are cared for or even whether they live or die. At some point we all need to decide how much money we would be willing or able to spend to extend or save a pet's life and where that money will come from. That amount is going to vary from person to person, pet to pet, and depend on age, prognosis, and quality of life.  But it is something you need to think about in advance. 

And I'm not saying a person needs unlimited funds or a minimum amount of money saved before getting a pet. I've seen a lot of clients on a tight budget do a great job of caring for their pets. It might mean spreading out routine expenses and saving or budgeting for larger procedures like dental cleanings or lump removals. And often, if these clients have a good relationship with their vet the clinic will work with them if an emergency arises. But a person also needs to be prepared to make difficult decisions if the need arises. Having a pet is a privilege, and potentially curable pets get euthanized all the time for financial reasons. Veterinarians don't like this any more than you do, but that is the way the world works. 

And it doesn't make you a bad pet owner, sometimes you just have to prioritize. We all do. If something hugely expensive happened to the barn cats that I couldn't fix myself I would put them to sleep. If Squirt, at 18 years old or more, needed $7000 colic surgery I wouldn't do it. These pets are loved, have a good life and are taken care of. But I have to draw the line somewhere. It would be hard and I would be sad but I also wouldn't expect the referral center to let me make payments of $100/month for years on end because that would make it convenient or feasible for me to afford something outside my comfort level. On the flipside, when Icy got sick I handed them my credit card and dealt with the payments later. It wasn't easy or convenient, but it was our decision to treat her and that's why we have the credit card. I didn't have the money up front, but I had a way to pay so she could get the care she needed. 

A person should also, ideally, think about the type of pet they are getting, the problems they are predisposed to and how they would deal with them should they arrive. Granted, you cannot predict everything, but running blindly into pet ownership with the idea that the veterinarian will save your pet at a moment's notice regardless of your ability to pay is foolish and irresponsible. 

I know some people feel strongly about this issue, and hopefully this gives you a perspective on why things are the way they are and a little on how to be prepared for an emergency-both financially and emotionally. 


Karissa said...

Excellent post! Should be shared all over the internet.

Nicki said...

Thanks, feel free to do so!

Elizabeth said...

I love it!
I have shared it on Facebook!

Francine said...

Brutally honest and fair assessment. Sharing as well.

Stacy said...

I shared on FB. After going through a $3K Addison's diagnosis/treatment, I am trying to get everyone I know to buy pet insurance! (Wish that I had. Oops). Lesson learned.

Nicki said...

Thanks for all the shares!

OLJ1201 said...

An IV bag with saline solution costs pennies, but hundreds after a couple days of fluids. Test after test after X-ray and multiple X-ray because they're trying to "rule things out." Yeah, well, it's coming out of my pocket, not yours! If it wasn't such a ripoff, and you didn't put the pet and owner through so many tests and X-rays, only to have their dog die, maybe this story would change.

Nicki said...

I'm sorry you feel that way but there are more costs to keeping a clinic open than just the cost of goods. No vets are out there getting rich by "ripping you off." And if vets reduce costs and give discounts to clients who can't pay then it is coming out of their pocket. They have employees to pay, families to feed, and bills of their own. The equipment companies and drug distributors need their money and if the vet can't pay them then they don't have the supplies needed to take care of pets. The vet clinic is just like any other business, like it or not. I don't own a clinic, and I don't envy the decisions owners need to make, but that doesn't change the facts. If you would like to decline testing and let the vet guess as to what is wrong with your pet you can do so. I have guessed many times for owners over the years.

Unknown said...


Good post. Today I applied for CareCredit. I applied for 6000.00 for an FHO Surgery for my 1 yr. old female Dale. It was approved in 10 seconds.

No interest for 24 months. Seems reasonable to me. The other choice for the pup is not good as you are aware.

Unknown said...


I used CareCredit and was approved in 10 seconds for 6000.00 for my 1 yr. old Dale w/hip displaysia.

24 months no interest.

Gotta love those Dales.

Elizabeth said...

OLJ1201 or Jessica.. why would you come here and post the same rude comments you did on our Addison Dogs Facebook Group in response to my sharing Niki's blog post.. You are an educated person, yet you don't act that way.
Niki she knows everything you said, it was pointed out to her by more than one person and by several Veterinarians who give a lot of their time to help dogs with Canine Addison's. Keep up the good work Niki! There are many of us who appreciate what Vets do!!

Nicki said...

Thanks Elizabeth, some people are going to be angry no matter what, just a part of life!