Scenario #1: During a routine annual checkup, you mostly discuss health issues with your vet. You ask, for example, whether he thinks dogs are generally over-vaccinated and whether your dog will really benefit from a booster shot at his age. You also mention that you’re not surprised your dog needs his teeth cleaned and that you’ve put it off because of the cost. Your vet, whom you adore, says he understands and that he will try to come up with a payment plan for the cleaning that will be comfortable for you. He is not specific.
You go to the front desk to pay and discover that your bill is $328. It seems that, to your surprise and horror, the Canine Senior Comprehensive blood work, done in addition to the regular wellness exam, costs $179. You do not say anything to the receptionist because you know it is not her fault but you suspect that she often bears the brunt of other clients’ surprise and horror because she is only is involved in the financial portion of the visit, not the medical one, which is riveting in a different way.
Scenario #2. You go to the clinic because your dog has been pawing at his eye. The exam, done with a special black light machine, indicates a corneal ulcer, and the vet (another one in the practice, whom you adore somewhat less because she once called your dog “peculiar”) prescribes antibiotic eye drops and a follow-up visit in a week. You phone to schedule the follow-up and discover — because it has occurred to you to ask — that it will cost as much as the initial visit. When you express surprise and horror you are offered a $10 discount but told that there are standard fees and costs “for billing purposes.” Your dog’s eye seems fine. You decide not to go back.
Pet insurance might have prevented the surprise and horror in both cases but you don’t have it because, by the time you discovered its existence, you pet was too old and had a pre-existing condition. And this post is not about pet insurance.
It’s about transparency of veterinary fees — or the lack thereof. It’s embarrassing for clients to have to bring up cost issues. Wouldn’t it be better if a fee sheet were handed out routinely to new clients, one detailing the cost of every procedure? And if, for any procedure not on the sheet — which would be handed out anew should there be major price hikes — the vet would, while discussing the need for the procedure, tell you the cost up front?
It’s true that people doctors don’t have to deal with this type of thing because insurance companies — whom we love to revile because they’re evil — serve as intermediaries. And I have nothing but respect for vets. Still, I’m a professional too, and I would never surprise a client of mine with hidden writing or editorial fees; we discuss and agree on all costs beforehand.
What do you think? Does your vet operate differently? Should she?
P.S. On a different topic — which has nothing to do with lucre, filthy or otherwise –I’m excited to announce that I’m going to be blogging for DogStarDaily.com, my favorite dog behavior/training site. Check out my first post here.