Prepaid Wellness Plans: Carefree Payment Option or Headache for Veterinarians?
In a perfect world, all of your pet owners would pay their bill at checkout (and in full) and chasing down slow-paying customers would be a thing of the past. Wouldn’t that be nice? Is it too utopian to even consider?
Many of today’s veterinarians are in fact coming fairly close to this world by encouraging their pet owner customers to pay for their pet’s products, services, and procedures ahead of time. And by offering prepaid wellness plans, these vets are spending less time pursuing delinquent customers, and more time doing what they do best – providing superior veterinarian care!
However the prepay model is not as bulletproof as it may seem. Here are some drawbacks and benefits to help you make your own judgment.
As with all forms of customer service measures, prepay plans can present the following obstacles:
Death – If a pet dies, are pet owners expected to pay the remainder of the plan?
According to Debbie Boone, BS, CCS, CVPM and owner of 2 Manage Vets Consulting, the answer is “Yes.”
Some practices require the plans be paid out even if the pet dies or runs away. Most practices calculate how much of the plan services have actually been used by the pet and determine which is better for the client – to continue to pay out the plan or to pay full fees for the services used.
- Mistaken insurance – As it is illegal to offer in-house insurance plans, you must clearly indicate to pet owners that prepay wellness options are not a form of insurance. More importantly, you must explicitly state that, if their pet gets sick, fees associated above the prepay parameters will be assessed and billed accordingly.
Boone states that,
“This is a major point of confusion when free or discounted exams are included in the plans. Some practices make the choice of not including any sick care in the plans just for this reason.”
To alleviate this confusion, make sure your office staff thoroughly and carefully reviews the contract before the pet owner signs.
- Team apprehension – possibly the highest hurdle to overcome is convincing staff to embrace this new process. If you can’t convince your key personnel to support and market preventive plans in your practice, you will never reach 100% utilization. It is, therefore, critical, to thoroughly explain the why behind the ensuing change. Be sure to let them know how prepay plans benefit both the pet owner and the clinic.
In spite of these challenges, Boone recommends that every Vet embrace the prepay model. Here are some reasons why:
- Efficient care – By ultimately making care more affordable and by focusing on preventative measures, prepaid wellness plans empower veterinarians to provide better services to their patients.
- Patient compliance – As affordable care options are available to pet owners, they are infinitely more likely to bring their pets in for regular check-ups and follow their care plan.
- Financial relief – Pet owners will experience a significant burden lifted off their bank account, as costly vet bills are less likely to accrue because their pet is healthier.
- Financial stability – Prepay plans will help create consistent, residual income for your clinic.
YOUR TURN: What is your opinion of pre-payment plans? Have you considered offering them to your customers? Why? Why Not? Share your experience. We want to hear from you!
No Legal Advice Intended: This communication is for informational purposes only and is not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and I.C. System, Inc. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal issues.