Report: Veterinary prices rise modestly as clinics charge more for routine services

In the last 7 years, amid a struggling and then rebounding economy, the cost of veterinary care crept up, particularly in 2015, when the recovery seemed to be on solid footing. But it wasn't surgery and other complex procedures that veterinarians have started charging more for, but rather the easy stuff, like vaccines and other wellness services.

That was one of the major takeaways from the latest issue of the Nationwide Purdue Veterinary Price Index, which is produced twice a year through a collaboration between insurance giant Nationwide and the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University. According to the report, wellness-care pricing at veterinary clinics rose 12% from 2009 through mid-2015, while the cost of medical services dropped 3.3%. The data was culled from 6 million veterinary claims filed to the pet insurance unit of Nationwide, which was formerly known as Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI).

According to the report, veterinary pricing bottomed out in December 2014, then began rising in step with the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In the first 6 months of 2015, wellness-care pricing rose 3.8%, versus 4% for the CPI. And for the first time since 2009, the cost of medical care increased faster than that of wellness services, jumping 5.6%. Even with those recent increases taken into account and the jump in wellness pricing, however, overall veterinary prices have risen less than a percent over the entire study period, according to the report.

Logan Jordan, associate dean at Purdue University's Krannert School of Management

Still, some management experts are concerned by the trend toward outsized pricing of routine veterinary care. During a presentation last month at the North American Veterinary Community's conference in Orlando, FL, one Purdue economist chided practitioners for charging too much for vaccines and other routine services. "Clients are paying less for the services that veterinarians go to school to provide," said Logan Jordan, associate dean at Purdue University's Krannert School of Management at the conference, according to dvm360. Jordan imagined that someday wellness services could easily be provided by mobile vaccination clinics or online pharmacies, making it "dangerous to build a practice on them."

The Nationwide Purdue Veterinary Price Index doesn't track very closely with government figures, which tend to show much faster pricing growth. From 2009 through 2015, the government reported a 24% increase in veterinary pricing, versus a 12% increase in the CPI. The discrepancy is a matter of methodology, according to the Nationwide Purdue report: The government relies on interviews rather than insurance transactions.

Nationwide is the oldest and largest provider of veterinary insurance. It began its collaboration with Purdue in late 2014 and the two presented their first analysis of veterinary pricing last January. Their price index will be refreshed twice a year going forward, with the next edition scheduled to come out this summer.

- here's the dvm360 article
- download the Nationwide Purdue report here