If you plan on working in small animal general practice, there’s a good chance you may someday find yourself in a practice that offers wellness plans. A 2015 survey found that 20% of the veterinary practices surveyed offered wellness plans as an option for their clients, although the exact number seems to fluctuate from year to year.1
Wellness plans are often touted as a way to help clients with budgeting, while increasing client compliance with preventive care recommendations.
When you think of wellness plans, you might immediately think of Banfield. While Banfield is one huge proponent of wellness plans, they certainly aren’t the only one! Wellness plans can be found in many other practices, including practices owned by VCA and National Veterinary Associates (NVA), as well as many privately-owned practices.
Practices that offer wellness plans often rely heavily on their vet techs to educate customers about these programs. Therefore, it’s important to understand both the pros and the cons of these plans, so that you can effectively educate your clients. Even if your practice doesn’t offer wellness plans, understanding the basic premise may help you educate clients who are coming from a practice that does offer them.
While wellness plans have their benefits, they are a frequent source of frustration for clients who often do not fully understand the program. Addressing common client misconceptions early and often can help reduce some of these frustrations.
Misconception #1: A wellness plan is insurance.
This is, without a doubt, the biggest misunderstanding that clients have about wellness plans. A wellness plan is NOT pet insurance! A wellness plan is a package of preventative care services on which the client is permitted to make monthly payments.
A wellness plan is a payment plan.
Some wellness plans offer additional perks, like free office visits or a discount off other veterinary services. While these perks can help defray the cost of some visits, they are not a substitute for pet insurance.
If a client wants to minimize their out-of-pocket expenses associated with veterinary care, their best option is to purchase both a wellness plan and a pet insurance policy. This will allow them to make monthly payments towards the wellness plan to cover their pet’s preventative care, while making monthly insurance payments that will provide coverage in the event of an illness or emergency.
Misconception #2: Wellness plans can be used at any veterinary clinic.
Because they confuse wellness plans with pet insurance, clients are often surprised to learn that their wellness plan can only be used at a single location. Although some corporate wellness plans can be used at any of that corporation’s locations, many plans can only be used at the practice where the plan was purchased.
Clients must understand that their wellness plan will offer them absolutely no benefit at an emergency clinic. Although this seems obvious, emergency clinic team members often encounter clients who become frustrated upon learning this fact! Additionally, if a client’s pet needs preventive or emergency care and the client’s regular vet is unable to accommodate their scheduling request (perhaps the client can only come in at one time and the practice doesn’t have any available appointments at that time), the wellness plan will not provide them any benefit at another general practice.
Misconception #3: Wellness plans can be ended at any time.
Remember, wellness plans are a payment plan. Clients aren’t paying for insurance coverage that covers a set period of time; they are paying for a specific set of services that they have likely already received. In most cases, many of the services included on a wellness plan are provided at the pet’s first annual visit. For example, a dog that is signed up on a wellness plan may receive a physical exam, vaccines, heartworm test, CBC/Chem, and a fecal flotation on that same day. If every client went home and cancelled their wellness plan after that first month, wellness plans would quickly cease to be a financially viable option for practices!
Wellness plan cancellation policies vary by practice. In most cases, however, clients that choose to cancel their wellness plan before the end of their one-year contract will have to pay for the services they have used. In many cases, it’s less expensive to pay out the remaining monthly payments on the wellness plan than to pay the cancellation fee.
Present a Balanced Picture
Wellness plans have their pros and cons, from both a client and vet tech perspective. From a client perspective, wellness plans simplify budgeting for preventative care. From the veterinary perspective, wellness plans help ensure that pets receive necessary preventative care. However, wellness plans can lead to frustration if clients don’t understand what they are purchasing.
If your employer offers wellness plans, you will be encouraged to discuss their benefits with pet owners… and that’s important! However, it’s just as important to address the common misconceptions clients may have about these plans, so that your clients are in a position to make an educated decision.
- Hauser, W. 2017. Wellness Plans Make Great Business Sense. Today’s Veterinary Practice.