I've done some reading recently and was surprised to see the backlash against Banfield's wellness plans. I thought I'd write down my personal thoughts on the matter.
It seems that people think Banfield's wellness plans are a form of insurance. They aren't. There's a big difference between insurance and a wellness plan. Here's my perspective on it:
So the plan that is right for you depends on your needs. If you are a typical pet owner and want to levelize your expenses, you'll probably benefit from a wellness plan. If you earn income from your show dog or breeding dog, then an insurance policy might be better.
I've had 5 pets on Banfield's wellness plans over the last 10 years (2 previous, and 3 now). What follows is my experience with all my pets on Banfield plans.
We used to spend $300 to $500 per pet each year. That includes everything vet-related: vaccinations, checkups, and all the minor emergencies that happen. So without Banfield, our expenses for 3 pets would be in the $900 to $1500 range each year. I'm saying “would be” because I'm projecting my past experience forward. In truth, I think my expenses would be even higher today because of inflation, and because dogs are more expensive to own than cats.
One difficult aspect of pet ownership has always been that the expenses occur randomly. Any trip to the vet results in a large bill. Its hard enough to stick to a budget, much less when randomly-occurring and unpredictably large vet bills are in the picture. We never had enough cash on hand to pay our vet bills, so we ended up putting them on our credit card. Not a good situation. And because of the expense, we avoided taking our pets to the vet unless they were really sick. That wasn't good for their health.
Then a PetSmart was built near us, and it had a Banfield Animal Hospital inside. We investigated and found their wellness plans. After a bit of homework, things started to make sense. Here are the hilights, in chart form:
|Payment structure||Point of service||Monthly bill|
|Payment due at time of service||Full price||Expenses only|
|Office visits||Full price||Free|
|Spay/Neuter||Full price||Free 1)|
|Fecal exams & bloodwork||Full price||Free or reduced price|
|Medicine cost||Full price||Reduced price|
|Emergency||Full price||Full price|
|Surgery||Full price||Full price|
|Office hours||5-6 days/week||7 days/week|
|Early morning drop-offs||Maybe||Yes|
It looked like we would break even during the year, so we gave the plans a try. Our initial appointment was more expensive than we hoped. There is a $100 setup fee, plus Banfield collects the first monthly payment in advance. But overall, the appointment wasn't any more expensive than what we were used to paying–especially considering the full exam, the number of vaccinations our pets received, etc.
Later on, the benefits really started to kick in. The Banfield office made a follow-up call the next day to see if our pets were OK. That was a nice touch, especially since it was from the vet tech we had spoken to and not a computer. Then came the postcard reminders for upcoming vaccinations, mid-year exams, and such. Each visit to Banfield was free, and many of the vaccinations were free. We normally spent only a few dollars at the cash register on each visit.
In a matter of months, we were hooked. We weren't so hesitant about going to the vet's office anymore. In fact, we visited Banfield more than any vet we had used in the past. This is partly because they're located in the PetSmart where we buy pet supplies, and partly because of the free office visit thing.
That phase lasted for a few months, and I'm glad we went through it. I think we became better pet owners in the process. Our frequent interactions with the Banfield veterinarians helped us gain confidence. We learned the difference between what needs a vet's attention and what doesn't, and that gave us peace of mind.
In summery: sometime during our first year as Banfield clients, we achieved what I think Banfield is going for with their wellness plans: lower costs for pet owners, and better care for pets. The main benefits we see year-round are:
Lets set the record straight though. There are some things that Banfield plans don't deal with:
And please–tell me you're smart enough not to expect this stuff from a $22/mo plan. I've seen people complaining on blogs (like this one) that these things aren't free. Get over it–you already saved money.
I'll defend Banfield from the comments I've seen in blogs: