Pet Wellness, Insurance, and Payment Plans

Veterinary Practice 101

Every pet deserves basic healthcare. Unfortunately, many pet parents are unaware and unprepared for the cost of veterinary care. They will look to you and your staff to help them understand their options. The differences between pet wellness, insurance, and payment plans can be difficult to understand and even more challenging to explain. How can you tell which options are best for your business and confidently recommend the right one to your clients? In this guidebook, we’ll review everything you need to know about when and why to offer your clients wellness plans, insurance, and payment plans.

Wellness Plans

Wellness plans are membership plans that cover all of the enrolled pet’s basic preventatives. This is the best way to help clients spread veterinary costs over time and keep clients coming back for routine care. We recommend introducing wellness plans to every client. Wellness plans cover services that every pet will need for the year to stay compliant, such as:

  • Wellness exams
  • Vaccinations
  • Blood work
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal tests

Wellness plans can do wonders to increase compliance. Although veterinarians typically recommend their clients bring their pets in once or twice a year, a majority of clients only come in for something absolutely necessary (vaccine requirements, emergencies). Committing to a wellness plan encourages clients to schedule regular visits. This allows you to detect any health problems earlier and ultimately provide better care to pets. 

Creating a wellness plan is a big time investment but it pays off—Banfield notably increased revenue by 40% using wellness plans. Here are a few options:

  1. Wellness Services: Premiere Petcare Plan and VCP both offer a hands-on service to help you decide what is right for your clients. You’ll be able to create multiple plans to best suit the needs of various breeds and ages. Once set, clients will directly pay you to enroll their pets. These services typically charge a percentage of the plan (up to 10%) or a monthly fee per policy they are managing. Either way, expect to spend roughly $50 per client who subscribes
  2. DIY: Alternatively, you can DIY your own plan and keep the 10% margin for yourself. Be aware that this will require setting up subscription billing, creating contracts, managing e-signatures and a significant amount of overhead.
  3. Standalone Wellness Plan: The quickest, easiest option is to recommend a standalone wellness plan. Many insurance companies offer wellness plans as an add-on. The provider manages the subscription and the client pays them directly, saving you all the overhead costs. While this may not cost you anything, be aware that there are a few downsides. First, clients will have to pay out of pocket at checkout and are required to submit claims to get reimbursed, which can be very frustrating. Secondly, there are usually limits to coverage (e.g. a maximum of $100 per year on exam fees) so clients will have to pay more in addition to the plan. Lastly, it is also important to note that these clients can use standalone wellness plans at any vet practice—so if loyalty is one of your goals, it would be best to invest in option 1 or 2.

Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is frequently confused with pet wellness. Many people expect pet insurance to work like human insurance and cover basic preventative care (see the previous section for a review on wellness plans). However, pet insurance typically only covers accidents and illnesses—nothing routine. Some pet insurance companies (PetsBest, ASPCA, Nationwide, Lemonade, etc.) do offer wellness coverage for an additional cost, but this means clients will have to file claims with the insurance company for small expenses such as flea and tick preventatives. It is imperative to make sure your client understands this when you are speaking to them about their options.

Pet insurance is ideal for younger pets and pets without preexisting conditions. Puppies/kittens tend to be very rambunctious and accident prone. Additionally, the younger the pets are, the less likely they are to have preexisting conditions. If you are speaking to a client who has a pet with preexisting conditions, it is important to point out to them that certain costs will not be covered. That said, a basic accident/illness-only plan could be a good solution.

Clients intuitively look to veterinarians as the pro and expect guidance on insurance. You might be wondering which type of insurance and which companies are best? If you decide to offer pet insurance in-house, it can be tricky to implement but it will also create loyalty from your clients since they need to return to your practice to receive treatment. When evaluating outside insurance companies, you should consider the following factors:

    • Customizability: Some insurance companies let clients choose aspects of their plan such as the deductible (the amount a client pays before the coverage kicks in) and coverage (what percent of the bill is covered after meeting the deductible). This will offer flexibility but can also be very confusing for your clients. If you recommend a customizable plan, be prepared to explain all the vocab and terms.
    • Gotchas: It may be tempting to buy cheaper plans but these tend to come with more exclusions that are hard to spot. For example, some plans may exclude specific conditions in certain breeds (e.g. hip dysplasia in frenchies and cancer in golden retrievers.) If your client is constrained by their budget, it’s crucial to make sure they understand the limitations that come with cheaper plans so they don’t receive any nasty surprises and blame you later.
    • Deductible structure: Are deductibles annual or per condition—meaning every time a pet comes in for a new issue, will your client get hit with a new deductible for that issue?
    • Claims process: Many insurance companies do not underwrite the policy until the first claim is filed. What does this mean for the client? When they submit their first claim, the insurance company will dig into the full medical history of their pet to find pre-existing conditions. This can result in unexpectedly denied claims, long wait times for reimbursement, partial reimbursement and extra paperwork for you and your client—not to mention, a lot of frustration. Try finding an insurance company that is vet-friendly and invests in a speedy claims process.

Payment Plans

When a client does not insure their pet ahead of time and ends up in a situation where they cannot afford a crucial service, it’s time to look at payment plans and financing options. It’s a situation that no one wants to be in, yet is sometimes unavoidable. 6 in 10 Americans report that they don’t have the savings to cover emergency vet services. By offering your clients insurance or wellness plans, you can better avoid scenarios like these, as well as high-tension situations that burn out your staff.

Why use a loan provider rather than setting up your own payment plan or letting clients pay you back later? Loan companies are taking on the burden of collecting payments and assuming the risk that a client may not pay back the full amount. They will check the client’s credit and may offer different interest rates based on these numbers. You get paid right away whether the client ends up paying back the amount to the loan provider or not.

How much will loans cost you? Loan companies take 4.5% to 10%+ of the transaction. Giving them a bigger percentage usually means your clients will pay less in interest. If your clientele struggle with the cost of your service and would otherwise not be able to afford your service at all, we suggest opting to take on more of the costs so that your patients get the treatments they need. If your clientele can afford your service, loans are a nice-to-have service that allows them to spread out costs. In this case, we’d suggest opting for higher interest plans at lower cost to your practice.

What are the logistics behind offering your clients financing options? You’ll need to sign up with a loan provider and create a merchant account, similar to how you set up your payment processor. There are a variety of loan/payment plan options out there. The two most prevalent in the industry are CareCredit and, a newer entrant, Scratchpay. CareCredit is a credit card while Scratchpay is a short-term installment loan. Approval depends on a borrower’s credit score. Some providers charge a higher merchant fee to practices or interest rate to clients. The tradeoff of higher fees is typically higher approval rates—meaning your client may be more likely to qualify for the loan. We suggest setting up multiple options to give your clients the best shot at approval.

What if your client doesn’t qualify for financing and their pet isn’t covered by insurance? In dire situations like this, there are still options such as charity, crowdfunding, and angel funds. There are a number of animal charities out there that can help clients afford certain veterinary bills, and are often local or breed-specific. If your client and their pet qualify for an angel fund, doctors may donate 100% of their abilities and the facility may donate all hospitalization and waive procedure fees. Veterinary practice owners and staff may also create their own fund to be used at the staff’s discretion, with generous clients contributing as well. If you do plan on collecting large donations, be sure to consider obtaining non-profit status so you can offer your donors tax benefits. 

The SnoutID Solution

Focus on pets, and SnoutID will make sure you get paid. 

SnoutID is a technology company based in San Francisco exclusively serving veterinary practices and hospitals with tools to provide wellness, insurance, and financing options. Trusted by 65,000+ pet owners, SnoutID supports veterinarians and their care teams with the modern tools they need to continue providing essential services.

Reach out to our team today and let’s discuss how we can offer more options that result in healthier pets and happier clients. To learn more about, visit our website and book a demo.


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