I decided to create this series of articles to address the top questions I’ve been asked as a veterinary technician. I’m a CVDT (Certified Veterinary Dental Technician), have been in the field for over ten years and have noticed a trend in the most commonly asked questions by pet owners. The answers found in these articles will reflect how things have been done in my experience only; keep in mind that all veterinarians and veterinary hospitals have varying policies and techniques.
We’ll discuss some of the commonly asked questions about payment options for pet medical care. Many times the cost of a procedure can be enough to prevent the owner from having something done for a pet. There are options available and while they will most likely vary from practice to practice, it never hurts to simply ask your veterinary hospital about their payment options.
1. Cash, Checks and Credit Cards
Pretty much every veterinary hospital takes cash, checks and credit cards however, not every one takes all types of credit cards. Be sure to find out if your particular card is accepted where you plan to take your pet. Visa and Mastercard are almost always taken, while American Express and Discover may not be. Checks may require a form of identification but cash is never refused!
2. Care Credit
Care Credit is a credit account that anyone can apply for. This account can be used for veterinary expenses, where accepted, but can also be used for your own personal medical costs at certain facilities such as dental offices, eye care centers and more. Care Credit often runs interest free programs and has an easy to understand payment schedule. You can apply for Care Credit via their website (www.carecredit.com). You can also contact your veterinarian to find out if Care Credit is accepted there and fill out an application in person. This is like a credit card, so a credit check will be run.
3. Pre-Pay on Your Pet’s Account
One payment option that many people don’t think of ahead of time is to pre-pay on their pets’ account. Set aside a certain amount of funds each week or month and take or send it in to the veterinary office. The money is deposited with each submission creating a credit on the account. This can help make the large veterinary bills seem much easier to handle when the time comes to take Fluffy in for her spay, dental or even her annual visit.
It’d be worth asking to find out if your veterinarian offers a sort of pet savings plan. While this is a relatively new idea in the veterinary field some offices do have plans that may accrue interest over time.
4. Payment Plans
While this is one option that has been weeded out in most facilities, some do still offer payment plans. It may be required that you make a payment on each specified day of your payment calendar or post-dated checks may be accepted. Expect to show proof of identification and to sign paperwork stating that you will pay the balance within a specific time frame, potentially with a payment schedule.
This will be a contract and if both ends aren’t held up to it, the veterinary office is not opposed to turning clients over to collections. It is not uncommon to get burned on payment for services that have already been rendered in this field, so this type of payment plan is now used as a last resort and is even completely unavailable in most clinics.
5. Pet Insurance
Pet insurance may seem expensive at first but being prepared is never a bad thing. Pet insurance covers a wide range of pet medical expenses. The way most of them work is that you will be responsible for the payment of the services provided at the veterinary office when you check out. Your insurance company will provide forms to have the veterinarian sign, which you then submit to the company. After that time, typically they will reimburse you the amount that is covered under your pets’ insurance policy.
Always be prepared! Whether you simply set aside funds for your pets’ medical costs, settle on an insurance policy or apply for a credit account, the best way to make sure your pet gets the care he or she needs is to simply be prepared. However, things come up and many times the cost can be overwhelming. If you are even slightly concerned about being able to cover the costs, ask your vet for an estimate before anything is done. Find out, too, what sort of payment options your particular veterinary office has available. If they don’t have any, then at least you’ll know. It never hurts to ask!