Do You have to Pay Vet Bills Up Front in the UK?

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Most vets will only accept full payment at the time of treatment, either from the pet owner or via pre-approval if pet insurance is paying the vet directly.

If the amount owed is low, then it’s typical that the pet owner will pay at the time of service. This is true even if they have pet insurance. If this is the case, then the policyholder will need to pay the fee and then put in a claim to be reimbursed by the provider after the fact. If the claim is approved, a payment, less the excess, will be paid to the policyholder.

The situation differs when pet insurance is non-existent or will not cover treatment, and the pet owner would have difficulty paying. In that case, it’s important to have a frank discussion with the vet to see if payment terms can be arranged.

Research and data-driven finance website NimbleFins says most pet insurance companies are willing to pay the vet directly, having checked the terms of more than 30 popular pet insurance companies to see if they offer direct-to-vet payments.

However, while pet insurance providers are generally happy to provide payment to the vet, the veterinary practice may not be as willing to accept this payment method. All veterinary practices will have their own policy, and some will not be willing to accept any direct payments. In contrast, others may accept some pet insurers for direct payments and not others.

If the vet is not willing to accept this type of payment, the pet owner is required to pay the full amount of any treatment up front at the time. The policyholder can then put in a claim to the insurer for the amount of the treatment and wait to be reimbursed. If paid, this will not include the amount agreed as an excess on the policy. So, for example, if a bill is £500 and the excess on the policy is £60, the insurer will pay the policyholder £440.

Direct-to-vet payments can greatly help pet owners as major medical procedures, and emergency treatment can cost thousands of pounds. If a direct-to-vet payment is accepted, the owner only needs to pay the excess at the time of treatment instead of footing the whole bill.

Some vets may want to get pre-authorisation from an insurer before any treatment is carried out to ensure the claim will be accepted. Likewise, pet owners may want pre-approval for expensive treatment.

Vets can also be unwilling to accept direct payments from insurers they have not worked with before, or any providers they may have had bad experiences with in the past. Therefore, it is important to check with the vet if they accept any direct payments and which providers are likely to be accepted before choosing a policy. It can be a better option to choose a larger, well-known provider as they are more likely to be accepted for this type of payment. In addition, companies such as Petplan, Bought by Many, and Animal Friends may be most likely to be accepted.

Vets may also charge an admin fee for direct-to-vet payment methods.

 

Do any pet insurance companies pay the vet direct?

Most pet insurance companies will pay the vet direct. All 31 pet insurance companies NimbleFins researched are happy to offer direct payments.

Petplan, Animal Friends, Bought by Many, More Than, 4Paws, and Tesco pet insurance are all happy to pay the vet directly.

However, vets may not be happy to accept direct payments from insurers at all, and some practices may only be happy to accept direct payments from selected insurers.

It is important to check this with a vet and an insurer before choosing either.

Some vets will only accept full payment at the time of treatment from the pet owner. If this is the case, then the policyholder will need to pay the fee and then put in a claim to be reimbursed by the provider after the fact. If the claim is approved, a payment, less the excess, will be paid to the policyholder.

Whether the vet accepts direct payments can come down to a few factors. A smaller veterinary practice may not accept any direct payments, whereas larger practices and animal hospitals are more likely to be able to offer this type of payment. As emergency treatment and major operations can cost significant sums, it can be very important for pet owners if referral centres and animal hospitals accept direct payment.

Previous experience can also be a factor for vets when deciding to accept direct payments. Larger insurance providers such as Petplan, Animal Friends, and Bought by Many are more likely to be accepting.

In fact, more than a third of UK vets have signed up to a special payment system by Animal Friends called Pawtal. This allows vets to access information about the cover and get pre-authorisation for treatment within an hour. The system also means vets can also be paid the same working day.

Vets may want pre-authorisation before treatment is carried out if direct payment is agreed to ensure the payment will be paid. Pet owners may also ask for approval ahead of expensive treatment for the same reason.

However, not all insurance providers will offer pre-authorisation such as Bought by Many.

A vet may also charge an admin fee for direct-to-vet payments.

How does the excess work when pet insurance pays the vet directly?

When a pet insurer is able to pay the vet directly, there is still the issue of the excess. Excess is an amount detailed on a policy which the pet owner will pay.

Any treatment over that excess can be claimed for, apart from certain medication such as for flea and ticks, worming, and some conditions not included in the policy.

If the pet insurance company is paying the treatment costs directly to the vet, it is normal for the pet owner to pay the excess amount to the vet at the time of the treatment.

This is different from indirect payments, where the pet owner will pay the full cost of the treatment to the vet and put in a claim to the insurer. If successful, the provider will pay the cost, less the excess, to the policyholder.

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