Today's Veterinary Business

AUG 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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6 Today's Veterinary Business Viewpoints Viewpoints YOUR TURN Today's Veterinary Business provides a forum for readers to comment on anything in this journal and on any topic relevant to the business of veterinary medicine. We welcome letters of 600 words or less — the shorter, the better. Please email submissions to editor Ken Niedziela at Include your name, professional degrees and credentials, workplace or city of residence, and contact information. Pet health insurance offers peace of mind The article "Place a Premium on Pet Insurance" [June/July 2018] ad- vising veterinarians on the impor- tance of proactively promoting pet health insurance and the subse- quent benefits to patients, clients and practice was clearly well-in- tended. Unfortunately, the article contained some factual errors and flawed advice to practice managers and veterinarians. I am a former practicing veteri- narian with over 19 years of exec- utive experience in the pet health insurance industry. It is my opinion that the enthusiastic embracing of pet health insurance by compan- ion animal veterinarians could be the singular most powerful tool to increase veterinary revenues and reduce the incidence of economic euthanasia. The effective use of this tool by veterinary staff members requires intimate knowledge about policies offered by different companies and management's dedication to making the tool function. First, I don't rec- ommend purchasing policies that combine wellness benefits with accident and illness coverage. Insurance premi- ums are calculated by predicting the medical cost risk associated with accident and illness. Well- ness premiums are based on the predictable usage of fixed-cost services. Attempting to combine both premiums into one creates a client illusion that insurance is an investment. Pet owners then tend to compare premiums paid to ben- efits received and, if the latter lags the former, the value of insurance is often questioned and policies can - celed. Insuring a pet is purchasing peace of mind — no more, no less. Second, contrary to the article, the coverage provided by most pet insurance policies is very similar. All companies offer an opportunity to share risk with the pet owner through deductibles, co-pays and annual limits. The higher the deductible and co-pay selected, the lower the monthly premiums. I know of no policies that routinely exclude benefits for breed-specific hereditary problems, cancer or hip dysplasia unless those conditions precede the effective date of the policy. No insurance company will provide benefits for pre-existing conditions. This explains why it is important to enroll pets when they are puppies or kittens before medical conditions occur that later could be defined as "pre-existing." The single factor that requires a thorough investigation is a com- parison of the premium charged with the potential benefits provid- ed by the insurance company. Pre- miums can vary greatly in different ZIP codes and by different compa- nies for nearly identical coverage. Third, placing the full decision of selecting a pet health insurance policy in the client's hands to make it easier on veterinary staff members is an abdication of ethical responsibility. It is clearly important for veterinarians and staff to educate pet own- ers about the costs and medical risks associated with owning a pet. There are excellent ex- amples of practices assuming this re- sponsibility in the article. More prac- tices are setting goals to proactively increase the percentage of insured pets in their patient database. As the percentage of insured pets goes up, compliance will increase, revenue will increase, economic euthanasia will decrease and team morale will improve proportionately. Lastly, while pet insurance policies are very similar, there are a few differences to look for. Policy waiting periods, coverage for den - tal accidents versus dental illness, and understanding the difference between annual or "per incident" deductibles are important. Most companies provide benefits for physical therapy; others may not without an extra premium. Also, some companies will not provide benefits for veterinary exam fees. This exclusion can sub- stantially increase the true amount of the deductible the policyholder is required to pay for each individu- al accident or illness. Disclaimer: I am not employed by or receiving any financial com- pensation from any company or individual associated with the pet health insurance industry. Kent A. Kruse, DVM Kruse Veterinary Consulting Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin What vets want We don't have a shortage of veterinarians with regard to the number of veterinarians out there ["The Ripple Effect," June/July 2018]. What we have is a shortage of vets who want to or can afford to live/work in a rural area. What we have is a shortage of vets who want to work a 40-hour week. What we have is a shortage of vets who want to work more than 40 hours a week. What we have is a shortage of vets who want to work a 40-hour week and then be on call. What we have is a shortage of food animal/equine vets — those who would be qualified to work in a rural area. (That was not me when I graduated. I did not want to nor was I good enough with food animal/equine medicine.) What we have is a shortage of vets who can afford to live/work in a high cost of living area like Long Island, New York. Look at the cost of living on L.I., look at the debt load, then look at the salaries being offered. Do you really think new grads can afford to live on L.I. and pay their student loan? Hell, I looked at a job in Southern California back in the early '90s. I was single and no kids. I was going to manage/work the practice. The sal- ary they wanted to pay me, I could not afford to live in the area, and I was debt free. I did not take that job. I worked a minimum of 65 to 70 hours a week my first three years out of school — paid salary. Nobody wants to do that anymore. Everybody wants the 30- to 40-hour work week in an area they can af- ford to live. Due to the student debt load, the "being able to afford to live" is getting very, very hard to do. The hot-bed areas are subur- ban areas. It's easier to afford to live in suburban areas. They have easy access to the amenities of life we all want: good schools, good medical care, decent wages and cost of living, and plenty of things to do. They are full of residents with disposable income. Vets in subur- ban areas do not have the same problems attracting associates as urban and high cost-of-living areas. We really do not have a short- age of vets. We really do not need more vet schools. So glad I'll be retiring in about 10 years, as our profession is going down the tubes in so many ways. Try to find a job in England that's not corporate. Give it time; it will be the same in the United States. Insurance companies will be dictat- ing what we make in 10 to 20 years, just like the MDs. It's coming. Scott Vaughan, DVM China Grove Animal Hospital China Grove, North Carolina Lost and found Perhaps letter writer Caroline Morder ["What Dog Shortage?" June/July 2018] does not believe that any dogs go back to their homes from animal shelters. This could rec- oncile the numbers she questions. We all see pets (usually pups) that are from bottom-of-the-barrel facilities. But as I read "The Loom- ing Dog Shortage" [February/March 2018], there is a call to come up with a certification for legitimate breeders. In Virginia, there are spe- cific laws regarding first vaccines and minimum age upon adoption. That, at least, is a start. Obviously, there is a shortage of quality pups or else there would not be a demand for substandard pups. J.L. Bayer, DVM Patterson Veterinary Hospital Richmond, Virginia As the percentage of insured pets goes up, compliance will increase, revenue will increase, economic euthanasia will decrease and team morale will improve proportionately.

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