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I'm a veterinarian first and foremost, but along life's many devious
paths, I also eked out a degree that says I know something
about business. Since I'm often asked to render my
opinion on the subject, I've been thinking about the many imperfections inherent to paying for pet care.
Though it’s not
all doom and gloom, there are four things I find troubling about our current payment system.
1. There’s a gap between the care owners want and what may be affordable. A race is underway in veterinary medicine. It’s between owner demand for state-of-the-art services and veterinary supply of new advances to meet the need.
Trouble is, there’s a huge gap between what owners know is available
and what most can afford.
For example, most pet owners know that canine lymphoma is a
treatable cancer. Many, however, aren’t prepared to shoulder
hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars a month for six months or more of treatment. It’s hard to know your vet can do
something for your pet when it's beyond your reach. Many owners never even considered that vet care could be
as pricey as such treatments are.
2. People aren’t used to paying for health care up front. “Payment is expected when services are rendered” is an odd concept
for many of us steeped in the American health care industry’s third-party payment system.
Veterinarians often hear: “Why so picky about getting paid up front? My doctor sends
me a bill. Why can’t you?”
This question is particularly problematic when owners are paying emergency hospitals
and specialty facilities for big-ticket items like
board-certified-level surgery. Steep pricing — however fair — can bring out the worst feelings in stressed-out pet
owners, especially when they’re coupled with strict payment
policies that are ultimately — if justifiably — designed to
protect animal hospitals more than they are pet owners. After all,
we have to pay our rent, electricity and drug bills immediately,
In the end, many pet owners have a hard time squaring high prices
and strict payment policies with the people they’ve always believed
had their pets’ best interests in mind. Which explains why “They’re
all about the money. They don’t care about pets” is a refrain that resonates with many pet owners and frustrates
If we really cared about money more than animals, why would
we accept well under half the income our human-doc counterparts earn
for the same amounts of rigorous schooling and crushing debt?
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
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