Can we negotiate this vet bill?
January 23, 2017 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Our cat Winston is undergoing dental surgery. One vet first saw the dental problem over a year ago and described it as a minor issue. At this year's annual exam, another vet at the same clinic said that Winston now requires expensive surgery that could have been avoided had he been treated a year ago. How do we approach negotiating the bill?

Winston is at the vet right now for the surgery. It was supposed to be completed today with a high estimate of about $1.5k, but it is apparently more severe than the vet thought and they are now keeping him overnight and doing more tomorrow, so presumably it'll be considerably more expensive than that. We can afford it in the literal sense of having the money available, but even the previous estimate would have been something that we would feel for months.

The current vet has said that earlier treatment would have slowed or prevented the progression of Winston's gum issues and today acknowledged that the first vet was not "proactive." It seems sensible to me that the clinic should reduce our bill since their earlier error is what made such expensive treatment necessary. From looking around online, it seems like if they're unwilling to adjust the bill, we could threaten to sue for malpractice in small claims and to file complaints with the BBB and the state veterinary board.

But how do you approach negotiating a bill like this in the first place? Neither of us has ever done something like this before. Presumably they'll want a check tomorrow when we pick Winston up, but we shouldn't pay them (at least in full) until we agree on a number, right? How do you begin? Do we offer to pay a specific percentage of the bill, the high estimate from prior to surgery, or do we begin from a more vague request to reduce the bill? Is there some kind of rough script for these kinds of conversations?

Cat tax.
posted by vathek to Pets & Animals (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"I was wondering if we can talk to the practice manager or billing manager about the cost of treatment. Had Dr. Wrongvet told us a year ago that this was serious and required proactive preventative care, we certainly would have done that. I'm disappointed that we were given incorrect information and not only had to put our cat through the trauma of surgery but we are facing a much more expensive bill. Given these circumstances, would it be possible for you to you write off some of this invoice?"

I'm not sure what a "fair" amount to pay is. I'm inclined to say that you should only have to pay the amount of the preventative treatment, but that's not going to fly. Hopefully someone else will have a better idea.

If you aren't able to get anywhere with them on the price, you could try negotiating a payment plan where you pay $X/month for Y months so it doesn't hit your bank account all at once.
posted by radioamy at 3:16 PM on January 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think radioamy's script is perfect, though you could also consider leaving off the last sentence. Let it hang, and let them come back to you with an offer. You can then say 'yes, that's fine', or 'I don't think I can accept that offer - is there something else you can do?' Don't make an offer yourself. Let them offer and counteroffer themselves.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:07 PM on January 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

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