Updated: Aug 26
Pet wellness plans and pet insurance plans are both excellent ways to provide financial protection for your clients and their pets. But what is the difference between the two, and which one is right for your veterinary practice?
Both can benefit a practice by:
- Providing a source of revenue;
- Increasing client loyalty;
- Improving compliance;
- Attracting new clients.
Here we will explore the differences between the two types of programs, and offer some guidance to choose the right option for your practice.
What are Pet Wellness Plans?
A wellness plan is a package of preventive care services that are bundled together and offered at a discounted rate. They typically cover things like vaccinations, yearly bloodwork and urinalysis, parasite prevention and control, and even routine dental cleaning. Most plans also include a certain number of free office visits per year to encourage clients to bring their pets in for regular checkups and routine veterinary visits.
Pet wellness plans are offered directly by veterinary practice, and the client pays a monthly fee directly to the practice. A one-time enrollment fee may also apply. Veterinary practices offering simple wellness plans may offer a discount or waive the enrollment fee if the client pays for the year in advance.
The main advantage of these plans is that they are customizable - each practice can design its own options to fit the needs of its clients and patient population.
Wellness plans are an excellent way to encourage clients to keep their pets up-to-date on preventive care. By bundling services together and offering them at a discounted rate, pet owners can save money while ensuring that their furry family members stay healthy.
What is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance is designed to reimburse policyholders for unexpected veterinary expenses incurred after an accident or illness has already occurred. The insurance helps pet owners cover the cost of these unexpected veterinary bills.
The insurance provider typically reimburses a certain percentage of the cost of covered vet bills, up to a maximum amount per year. Sometimes coverage for preventive care is offered, but this is typically not as comprehensive as what is offered in a pet wellness plan.
Pet Insurance is most often used for:
- Major accident and illness coverage;
- Emergency care;
- Treatment for specialized care, such as cancer or diabetes.
Pet insurance policies, or pet health insurance, are offered by insurance companies, and the client pays a monthly premium directly to the company. Such a policy is considered a financial safety net for those caring for pets.
Pricing can vary based on a number of factors, such as the type of pet, the age of the pet, the location of the pet, and the coverage options selected.
How Do Pet Wellness Plans Differ From Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance and pet wellness plans are two very different things. Pet insurance is designed to reimburse policyholders for unexpected veterinary expenses incurred after an accident or illness has already occurred. Pet insurance does not usually cover routine or preventative care and may include an annual deductible or annual limits.
Wellness plans, on the other hand, are preventative care programs that help animal guardians better budget for and manage their pet’s routine healthcare needs. Wellness plans typically include routine services such as vaccinations, routine bloodwork and screenings, routine deworming, and more. Some also offer discounts on other services like spay/neuter surgery, microchipping, dental care, and more.
Are Pet Wellness Plans Worth It?
The short answer is yes! Pet wellness plans can save animal guardians a significant amount of money on their pet’s routine healthcare needs and veterinary cost plus help budget for and keep track of their pet’s health care needs.
For the veterinarian, offering wellness plans can be a great way to build client loyalty and keep your patients healthy. Pet wellness plans encourage clients to bring their pets in for routine preventive care, which can help identify health problems early on, before they become more serious (and more expensive to treat). It can also help pet parents manage veterinarian bills.
How Do Wellness Plans Work?
Wellness plans typically cover a 12-month period and are renewed on an annual basis. Pet parents pay a monthly fee when they enroll their pet in the program. The price of the monthly fee will vary depending on the services included in the plan and the age, breed, and size of your pet. Discounts are often available for multiple pets in the same household and there may be an annual pay discount available as well.
Clients call to schedule their appointment and bring their pet in for their visit just like non-members but may receive perks such as priority scheduling. The veterinarian or veterinary technician will perform the services included in the plan, and the client only pays for any services or products not already covered in the program.
Do All Dogs and Cats Need a Wellness Plan?
The answer to this question depends on a number of factors. If the client is looking for a way to save money on their pet’s routine healthcare needs, then enrolling in a plan may be a good option.
If someone is simply looking for a way to budget for and keep track of their pet’s preventative care needs, then a wellness plan may also be worth considering.
If the client is moving out of the area soon or has a pet with a chronic health condition that requires more frequent veterinary visits, then this may not be the best option. In these cases, pet insurance may be a better fit. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to enroll is up to the pet guardian.
For the best possible healthcare for your furry friend, the options are definitely worth considering. Pet wellness plans offer a comprehensive approach to preventive care that can help keep pets healthy and save the client money in the long run.
Which One is Right for Your Practice?
The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the type of practice you have, the services you offer, and the needs of your clients.
Pet insurance is a good option for practices that see a lot of sick or injured patients. Pet wellness plans are a good option for practices that focus on preventive care and want to encourage clients to bring their pets in for routine visits. A larger practice may wish to offer both options to its clients.
Considerations for Veterinarians
Focusing on the needs
One of the main goals of implementing wellness plans is certainly to improve your practice’s bottom line. However, you shouldn’t be so focused on that aspect that you forget the other purpose: to help your clients and improve the lives of their pets. There needs to be a balance and you should be crafting your wellness plans based on the needs and preferences of your clientele. If you want them to subscribe, you have to make it worth their while, not just yours.
You may be excited to start offering wellness plans, but if you launch too soon – before all the details are worked out and set in stone – you could be setting up for failure. Before you begin promoting your packages, make sure you’ve hammered everything out, such as what’s included (and what isn’t), how much you’ll charge, what kind of payment options you’ll offer, etc.
You should also have an idea for how you’ll market the plans, how your associates will be compensated for services and how you’ll handle the tough stuff, like relocations or the death of an enrolled pet.
Get it in writing
Think of your packages as contracts. You are agreeing to perform certain pre-determined services at a specified price and your clients are agreeing to abide by the terms of the package in order to reap the benefits. These important details should always be in writing. Otherwise, you’ll inevitably find yourself dealing with discrepancies down the road. Make sure the documents cover every important detail, including what’s covered and the responsibilities of each party. To be safe, you may want to consider having the agreement drawn up by an attorney, just in case.
The membership fee
When you join any type of membership plan – whether it’s a gym, a local club or a community organization – there is almost always an upfront fee. This is typically just understood and accepted, yet many vets make the mistake of skipping this altogether. Try to view membership or enrollment fees as something that makes clients feel part of an exclusive group. When you look at it this way, and promote it as such, it makes it much easier to charge. And remember – this fee is designed to help defray some of the costs that you will incur when a new client signs up, so it’s important to your bottom line.
Plus, that membership or enrollment fee offers a built-in way to promote the plans. You can simply waive the fee for a limited time to encourage new clients to sign up.
Some practices get so eager to roll out a program that they fail to accurately price them, and end up losing out in the long run. While it’s true that not every enrolled member will take full advantage of every service that’s included, the majority of them will, and if you’re discounting your services too much, the plans will cost you more than you’ll make. When developing your packages, always keep your desired profit margin in mind to avoid selling yourself short.
Stick to the contract
There will almost always be a select few clients who, after enrolling in your wellness program, will try to get out of the contract. Offering refunds on unused services defeats the purpose of offering wellness plans in the first place. (This is another reason it’s so important to have everything in writing.) Similarly, allowing unused services to carry over from one year to the next is also an unwise move financially. It may be tempting to give in to keep a client happy. Instead, be professional but firm and stick to your guns.
Offering a wellness program can do wonders for boosting long-term revenue and improving client loyalty – but only if you set them up and carry them out properly. Carefully consider these six areas listed above and you’ll reap the benefits with much less of the headache down the road.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do wellness plans cover annual wellness visits?
Most of the time at least one annual wellness visit is included. Some plans may cover more than one annual visit, while others may have a set schedule of what is covered during each visit.
Do they cover prescription medication?
This will vary depending on the plan. Some wellness plans may cover a certain percentage of the cost of prescription medication, while others may not cover it at all. Pet insurance plans usually do not cover prescription medication, but there are some that will offer coverage for certain conditions.
What if the pet has pre-existing conditions?
Some plans will cover pre-existing conditions, while others may have a waiting period before coverage begins.
How much should you spend?
The cost of pet insurance and wellness plans will vary depending on the coverage chosen and the size, age and breed of the dog or cat. Generally, you can expect to pay $30 to $100 per month for insurance, and $100 or more per year for a wellness plan.
Do I need both types of plans?
Pet insurance and wellness plans both offer distinct advantages, so pet parents may want to consider enrolling in both.
Pet wellness plans and pet insurance can be a great way for veterinary clients to save money on the cost of veterinary care for their beloved furry friends. By taking the time to learn about the plan options and differences and carefully evaluating your market, you can make sure you're extending the best possible coverage for area pets.
Still wondering if these are right for your hospital or clinic? The right partner can help you evaluate the best options for your practice and your market, and create a strategy to implement the new plans too. Contact us today!