July 15, 2003


 Profession renders second opinion about veterinary care, fees

Posted June 30, 2003

In a June 12 letter sent to all AVMA members, Dr. Joe M. Howell, president, advises his colleagues what the Association has done to counter negative assertions about veterinary care in the July cover story of Consumer Reports magazine.

Supporters of the profession and those in allied industries will also be interested in Dr. Howell's letter. The president began by saying that the authors of "Veterinary Care without the Bite" focused on increasing costs for veterinary services, but failed to address consumer demand for advanced care and value for services rendered. The result, he said, was an article that conveyed a negative picture of the veterinary profession.

"Your AVMA leadership believes this article warranted a response," the president went on. Dr. Howell reported that the AVMA mounted the following response:

  • Drafted and sent a letter to the executive editor of Consumer Reports, Eileen Denver (see page 166)
  • Disseminated to the consumer and professional press a news release emphasizing the profession's efforts to ensure good value in delivery of quality care
  • Sent copies of his cover letter, the letter to Consumer Reports, and the news release to executive directors of state and allied veterinary organizations

Those materials as well as a summary of the AVMA response can be found at www.avma.org. Whenever news of importance to the veterinary profession develops, turn first to the AVMA Web site for targeted coverage.

Regardless of whether Consumer Reports publishes the AVMA letter to the editor, it can serve as a resource for veterinarians whose clients want to discuss issues raised in the article.

Also on June 12, the AAHA faxed its members an AAHA Member Alert about the Consumer Reports article, saying it provides an inaccurate account of veterinary care and fees. The association sent a letter to the editor of Consumer Reports, Margot Slade, criticizing "the misleading article."

Of particular concern, wrote AAHA President Link V. Welborn in the letter, is a false statement that the AAHA advises veterinarians "to impose a $5-per-customer fee increase to raise $50,000 of mostly pure profit." Dr. Welborn said that "more distressing is the article's presumption that veterinary services are a commodity that can be shopped based on price alone."

To assist veterinarians and their practice teams in conversations with clients who may read the article, the AAHA included a two-page fact sheet about the cost of veterinary care in its member communiqué. The AAHA letter to the editor and fact sheet are posted at www.aahanet.org.

The AVMA and AAHA acknowledge in their letters that the articles present some helpful tips, but the AVMA noted that these are many of the same suggestions that practitioners routinely recommend to animal owners.

Brakke Consulting Inc., reacting to the Consumer Reports article, had something to say about the value of veterinary service in its June 13 Animal Health News & Notes.

"Fortunately, quality veterinary care is one of the best bargains in health care today," wrote the Brakke Consulting Practice Management Group. "Veterinary care, which requires just as much time, education, skill and equipment to deliver as human health care, is delivered at a fraction of the cost of comparable human care—and delivered in the vast majority of animal clinics and hospitals without government subsidy."

The consulting group concluded: "The animal health industry and the veterinary profession need to work together to ensure that pet owners know the value they are receiving."