Paying for Veterinary Care During COVID-19

We are all facing an unprecedented crisis as we navigate the challenges of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. What began as a medical and health emergency has also become an economic and financial emergency.

Coronavirus does not discriminate – people from all backgrounds and communities are being impacted.

While the financial consequences of this pandemic will be greatest among the working poor and those living in poverty, even middle-class families will suffer from loss of income and no paid time off from work.

Veterinary practices will encounter a growing number of pet parents who need help paying for services over the next several months. Under ordinary circumstances, about 40% of those pet parents can turn to third-party financing products for help — such as CareCredit®.

But the circumstances we are facing are far from ordinary.

Because many individuals will suffer a shortfall in income, they will be forced to use existing credit to manage household expenses – resulting in less available credit for veterinary care.

As individuals become more highly leveraged, rising credit utilization ratios will negatively impact FICO (credit) scores. As a result, veterinary practices will see more credit declines than usual.

While there are charitable organizations that offer grants for veterinary care, their resources will be stretched thin as they face an increased demand for services coupled with a drop in donations.

As the need for financial assistance quickly outpaces available funds, veterinary charities simply won’t be able to pick up all the slack.

A timely and practical alternative is offering in-house payment plans to help financially strapped pet parents, even if it’s just for the duration of the current crisis.

In-house payment plans fell out of favor over the years due to a history of poor payment compliance and the extra work involved in collecting client payments. But advances in financial technology mean that practices no longer need to follow this outdated model which was largely unsuccessful and overly labor intensive.

VetBilling® is an option that allows veterinarians to offer in-house payment plans with minimal financial risk. Pet parents sign a contractual agreement consenting to automatic drafts until their balance is paid in full.

VetBilling® manages payments throughout the entire lifecycle of the payment plan, including full collection services if needed. The veterinary team is then free to concentrate on providing optimal care.

Payment plan agreements can be set up in a matter of minutes, using VetBilling’s web-accessible, PCI-compliant platform.

During this period of social distancing and curbside drop-off and pickup, VetBilling®’s platform allows any vet team member to set up payment agreements remotely.  The payment contract is automatically sent to the pet owner by email or text. Using VetBilling®’s proprietary signature feature, the pet owner can finalize and sign the agreement from the comfort of their home or from inside their car while waiting outside the veterinary hospital.

With a payment compliance rate that averages over 90%, VetBilling® offers a client-friendly solution that practices can implement within 24 hours.

While we navigate the dramatic personal and financial challenges associated with COVID-19, it is incumbent upon all of us to respond by adjusting the way we usually do business. Governments and businesses alike are establishing policies that call for financial leniency.

The human-animal bond transcends socio-economic, racial, ethnic and geographic boundaries.

As we unite around our shared love of animals, may we all honor that bond with greater compassion.

 

Sources:

“Protect Yourself Financially From the Impact of the Coronavirus,” March 16, 2020.  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/protect-yourself-financially-from-impact-of-coronavirus/

“What’s Your Debt-to-Income Ratio? Calculate your DTI,” October 8, 2019. Nerdwallet.
https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/loans/personal-loans/calculate-debt-income-ratio

“How Do Credit Utilization Ratio and Debt-to-Income Ratio Affect My Credit Score?” September 28, 2018.  Nerdwallet.
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/credit-utilization-ratio-debttoincome-ratio-whats-difference/

“Coronavirus and Its Impact on Financial Security.” March 21, 2020. GFLEC: Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center News Flash.
https://gflec.org/about/news-flash/
DOWNLOAD PDF DOCUMENT: https://gflec.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/GFLEC-News-Flash-_-FinLit-and-COVID-19.pdf?x83489

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