People love their pets. Vets care for pets because they love animals.

No one would argue with these truths. However, the conversation around how to provide care for pets can be a hard one – one that The Pet Fund has with pet owners every day. Fielding hundreds of calls each day from pet owners in need, The Pet Fund is a non-profit organization providing grants for needed veterinary care. As the cost of veterinary care continues to rise, this is becoming an increasingly challenging mission. Pet owners who are already experiencing financial hardship are faced with ever- increasing veterinary costs that can easily run into the thousands of dollars. This is also a problem for veterinarians who need to retain clients while covering rising costs.

First, here are some statistics that reflect the marketplace and explain why pet owners are stressed and looking for alternative payment options:

  • 58% of Millennials, 18-24 year olds, are the age group most likely to own a dog;5 63% of them don’t have a credit card. 3 Millennials scratch out a 625 FICO, near or at sub-prime, rendering credit qualification challenging when in need. 1
  • 51% of Gen X, 35-49 years, own a pet.5 The average Gen X has a 650 FICO score, near sub-prime. 1 Gen X use credit but can hardly get more as they push their bankcard utilization to 41% when the ideal bar is no more than 30%. 1
  • 47% of families don’t have enough in savings to cover a $400 unexpected expense. 2

Because the consumer of veterinary services is changing, the conversation we have about traditional payment sources needs to change too.

Why is this important? Two reasons – available cash and available credit differ depending on the age of the pet owner. The Millennial generation categorically avoids credit. 1    By contrast, Generation X has higher average debt than either Boomers or Millennials, even when excluding mortgages. Their average credit score is nothing to brag about either, at 650.1   Credit still makes the world go ‘round and Millennials are opting out while Gen X’s are tapped out.  For service providers like veterinarians, that’s bad for business.

How do most families pay for vet care? Sometimes they don’t. Not enough cash on-hand, insufficient credit available, and limited options mean that often euthanasia or the shelter is the result instead of care.

Karen Leslie, Executive Director of The Pet Fund, explains how this economic situation affects pet owners who need access to medical treatment for their animals.

Q – What happens when pet owners can't afford needed veterinary care?

A – When a pet owner needs help affording veterinary care, nonprofits can often assist with part of the costs, but often additional funding is needed to cover large bills. The costs for surgeries or even just for testing is often out of reach for low to middle-income owners, so additional resources are needed to cover the entire bill.

Q – Your website lists many resources for pet owners.  It looks like a large part of your conversation is education as you partner with pet owners to find a way to pay for pet care. How important is this part of your mission?

A – We consider the education and outreach part of our nonprofit to be the most important part of our work. Helping pet owners develop awareness of both preventative care practices and available financial resources ensures that they will be able to provide a sustainable situation for their pets, which does more than simply fund a one-time medical need.

Q – Why do you think CareCap is such a unique solution for vets and pet owners alike?

A- Traditionally, vets are not able to make payment plans available to pet owners for two reasons: first, the vet has to take on the burden of setting up the plan and recouping their costs. Secondly, vets who have attempted to do this on their own have had negative experiences in getting the bills paid and are resistant to offer this option again. CareCap makes this easy. They take care of all the billing and collecting for the vet. Using CareCap, not only does the vet get paid without the hassle of billing and collecting, but the pet owner now has access to care that would otherwise be out of reach.

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Veterinarians are looking for solutions to remove the economic barriers to care. As a veterinarian, consider how your conversation with a pet owner would change if you could say, “We can make an easy, low cost payment plan available to you so you can afford your pet's treatment plan.”  The technology to do so is here.  It’s called CareCap.

1 http://www.creditinfocenter.com/wordpress/2015/08/04/credit-debt-income-generations-millennials-gen-x- boomers-greatest-generation-compare/

2 http://www.federalreserve.gov/econresdata/2014-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201505.pdf

3 http://www.bankrate.com/finance/credit-cards/more-millennials-say-no-to-credit-cards-1.aspx

4 http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/01/16/this-year-millennials-will-overtake-baby-boomers/

 5 http://store.mintel.com/americas-pet-owners-us-september-2011


Money – The Generational Divide

My college-aged son was traveling last month with a bunch of friends.  I asked him how they managed to equitably share all the trip expenses (thinking that the credit card I gave him before he left for school probably took the brunt of it).  His reply?  Venmo.  Sorry, Ven-what?

Remember when paying for something meant cash or checkbook? Then we evolved to credit and debit cards.  This is where I must be stuck in a baby-boomer time warp.  As a member of this 50-69 year-old bracket, I still carry cash and write checks.  Yes, I carry plastic, but not a debit card (don’t you write a check instead?).  Now there’s all sorts of solutions for P2P payments like PayPal, Venmo, Square, Google Wallet, Snapcash, Dwolla, or FaceCash.  Or crowdfund your needs with Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Crowdrise, Quirky, or Tilt. Even crowdfund on smartphones with TaskRabbit, Gigwalk, Roamler, or Uber.  Huh?

Staying current on currencies is a challenge.  The way people pay for goods and services has left many of us in the dust.   Remember a book called DOS for Dummies when the personal computer first came out?  Well, I needed Payments for Pinheads to explain the new dialogue and acronyms.  So, I thought I’d share my gathered insights with you all, potential peeps in the new online platforms and peer-to-peer (P2P) world of payments.

Let’s start with WHO is paying WHO.  Many times these days, the bank doesn’t play a major role in the exchange of money.  Oh yes, they’re still there.  Just very much behind the scenes.  Today, payers and receivers work P2P, or Peer-to-Peer.  Like my son, he simply filled up the car with gas.  $50 on his debit card while his four friends clicked into Venmo on their smart phones and contributed $10 each directly to his Venmo account…all before the gas cap was locked in.   No paper, no checks, no ATM’s, no obvious banks, and definitely, no credit.

What does that say about credit since I brought up the “C-word”?  My son doesn’t have a credit card (that’s why he had mine in his pocket).  What’s more important is that he doesn’t want one…and neither do his friends.  This Millennial generation aged 19-34 years, our up-and-coming buyer who will out-number us Boomers this year, is categorically against credit. 4   By contrast, our industry’s current “average buyer”, Generation X aged 35-49 years, has higher average debt than either Boomers or Millennials, even when excluding mortgages.  Their average credit score is nothing to brag about either, at 650.1 We’ll come back to this as credit (still) makes our world go-round and Millennials are opting out while Gen X’s are tapped out.  As service providers, that’s bad for business.

Back to P2P…peers paying peers can come in a few flavors, all dependent on desired outcome.  Sometimes it’s just an individual paying another individual.  Other times, people in need will “crowd fund” so that many people may contribute to their need, cause, or business startup.  All of it driven by the internet and often transacted via the smart phone.

How does this new payments mentality affect us in the funeral industry?  What is the role of credit? Do we stay in our time warp, or is it time to get current with new ways for our families to pay?

Here are some statistics that reflect what you’re seeing in the marketplace and hearing during your discussions with families:

  • 47% of families don’t have enough in savings to cover a $400 unexpected expense. 2
  • 63% of Millennials don’t have a credit card; 3 Gen X push their bankcard utilization to 41% when the ideal bar is no more than 30%. 1
  • The average Gen X has a 650 FICO score while Millennials scratch out a 625, near or at sub-prime. 1

How on earth do most families pay for funeral services?  They don’t – not enough cash on-hand; insufficient credit available; and a FICO score that doesn’t support more.  So…they compromise.  Maybe they choose cremation instead of the burial they truly want.  Without a better way to pay, their choices are limited.

With the technology available to serve them better, we have it within our power to ease their stress by providing compassionate care and financial options…options that acknowledge the challenges they face around available cash and credit.  Consider how your conversation with a family would change if you could say, “Don’t worry, I can help you pay for the service you imagine; easily, affordably, and without additional credit hassles.”  Might you be their hero?  The technology to do so is here.  It’s called CareCap.

Visit Michelle and CareCap at the NFDA, booth #867, for more information and a special convention offer.

1 http://www.creditinfocenter.com/wordpress/2015/08/04/credit-debt-income-generations-millennials-gen-x-boomers-greatest-generation-compare/

2 Federal Reserve Oct 2014 Survey

3 http://www.bankrate.com/finance/credit-cards/more-millennials-say-no-to-credit-cards-1.aspx

4 http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/01/16/this-year-millennials-will-overtake-baby-boomers/

 

Patient Payment Optimization

Patient Payment Optimization

“Key trends in Healthcare Patient Payments” documenting trends in healthcare patient payments, focuses specifically on the ever-increasing need for providers to optimize their patient billing and collections processes. One of the many observations made in the report is the fact that “healthcare providers… are not providing the level or the sophistication of payments services that consumers expect.” -JP Morgan’s research report