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Legalease
Legalease, Lawyer
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Experience:  15 years exp all aspects of general law
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I feel that I was grossly overcharged for a variety of services

Customer Question

I feel that I was grossly overcharged for a variety of services but primarily dental for my 5 dogs. I was quoted a price of approximately $250 per dog to have their teeth cleaned. When I went to pick up the dogs the charges ranged from $411 to $511. These dogs are all in excellent health and the cleaning was routine. There were other overcharges as well and general poor business practices. Do I have any recourse?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  pbrazzell replied 4 years ago.
Ultimately you should talk to the veterinarian or the office manager.

Normally if I am going to do a procedure that was quoted previously and the costs are going to be greater than the quote either myself or a staff member will contact the owners to get approval for the charges.

I am not saying that the care that was given or the additional procedures that were performed were not necessary. However, prior approval of the additional costs ideally should have been obtained.

Speak to them, find out what else was done and explain your situation. No doubt they will work with you to resolve the issues.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I spoke to the office manager and got no where. I asked to speak to the doctor but she would not come out of the back, eventhough there were no other clients there but me.

 

I have just finished submitting a complaint to the NY State Board for Veterinary Medicine. So here is the whole story: Sorry it is very lengthy.

 

 

Complaint against XXXXX XXXXXstein, DVM - Henrietta Animal Hospital

 

Submitted by:

Lynn Allinger

XXXXXbr />Rochester, NY 14607

XXX-XXX-XXXX
FAX XXX-XXX-XXXXXXX@XXXXXX.XXX

Submitted to:
New York State Board for Veterinary Medicine
Veterinary Medicine, Unit 1
Albany, NYNNN-NN-NNNNbr />XXX-XXX-XXXX
518/486-4846
E-mail: XXXXX@XXXXXX.XXX

 

August 1, 2009

 

Attention: Disciplinary Information Contact: Connie Mitchell

 

I wish to file a complaint against XXXXX XXXXXstein, DVM - Henrietta Animal Hospital, 3150 East Henrietta Road, Henrietta, NYNNN-NN-NNNNphone: XXX-XXX-XXXX for the following reasons.

  1. Gross overcharges for services rendered and medications.
  2. Refusal to give Heartworm prescriptions to Petmeds.com
  3. Mistaken dosage of Metronidazole(flagyil) issued
  4. Unprofessional and rude treatment
  5. Lack of reports and consultation for services rendered

 

Explanation of above complaints:

 

  1. Gross overcharges for services rendered and medications.

On July, 17, 2009 I brought in my 5 dogs to Dr. Brownstein for annual exams and necessary vaccinations. They stated that 4 of my dogs needed teeth cleaning. I asked what the price would be for the total procedure and was told by the receptionist/office manager, Jackie, that it would be approximately $250 per dog. This verbal quote was also witness by their new receptionist in training. I agreed to the quoted amount and made appointments for the 4 dogs. I considered this to be a verbal contract. When I received the bill for the dental procedure the charges were $411.05 for Bob, $443.36 for Buddy Ray, $502.07 for Dixie, and $569.36 for Marge. This is a total of $1935.84 and I was quoted $1000. (Note: Marge's total did include 5 extracted teeth for the additional charge of $54.50 and I am fine with that. )

 

Also, during that same visit I was told that Ernie was due for a Lyme disease booster, but they said they could not administer it that day because he had too many other vaccinations. I was told to bring him back when I brought the other dogs. I said I would do this as long as I would not be charged and additional office visit. The receptionist/office manager, Jackie, assured me that I would only be charged $42.20 for the booster. I made her repeat this to be absolutely certain. This verbal quote was also witnessed by their new receptionist in training. When I received the invoice for Ernie there was a "Treatment and progress exam" charge for $38.93. When I told Jackie that her she herself had told me there would be no office charge she just shrugged her shoulders. So, my charge for Ernie's Lyme booster totaled $76,73 instead of $42.20. This after I had paid $49.00 on 7/17 (a week prior) for a Wellness Exam for Ernie.

 

After I got home from the July, 17, 2009 visit and went over the Invoice I saw that I was charged as follows for heartworm medication.

$19.05 for 1 pill for Bob (26-50 lbs)

$20.67 for 1 pill for Buddy Ray (51-100lbs)

$20.67 for 1 pill for Buddy Ray (51-100lbs)

$17.20 for 1 pill for Ernie (0-25 lbs)

$17.20 for 1 pill for Marge (0-25 lbs)

After buying Heartworm pills for many years I knew that these prices were outrageous. I believed that Jackie had made a mistake. I went to their website to check prices and found the following posted on their site.

Tri-Heart Plus (Pack 6-ct - Strength/Size Up to 25 lbs (Blue)) $18.99

NOTE: A 6 month supply on the Henrietta Animal Hospital site is $18.99 ($3.61 per pill) and I was charge $17.20 in their office for a 1 pill for both Ernie and Marge. This is $15.38 MORE per pill than I would have paid if I bought them on the website. $15.38 x 2 dogs = $30.76 overcharge.

Tri-Heart Plus (Pack 6-ct - Strength/Size 26-50 lbs (Green)) $24.99

NOTE: A 6 month supply on the Henrietta Animal Hospital site is $24.99 ($4.165 per pill) and I was charge $19.05 in their office for a 1 pill for Bob. This is an overcharge of $15.335.

Tri-Heart Plus (Pack 6-ct - Strength/Size 51-100 lbs (Brown)) $30.99

NOTE: A 6 month supply on the Henrietta Animal Hospital site is $30.99 ($5.165 per pill) and I was charge $20.67 in their office for a 1 pill for Buddy Ray and Dixie. This is $15.805 MORE per pill than I would have paid if I bought them on the website. $15.805 x 2 dogs = $31.61 overcharge.

I was also charge $97.20 for 6 K-9Advantix pills that are listed as $64.99 on their website. Another overcharge of $32.21.

In Summary:
The total of Tri-Heart Plus and Advantix overcharges total $109.92
Charges for dental cleaning exceeded the verbal quote by $881.34
The charge for Ernie's Booster office visit was $38.93
The grand total of all over charges = $1030.19

After Dr. Brownstein refused to honor our verbal contact and give me any sort of credit for the above I did some research.

Here is how their charges compare to the Animal Hospital of Pittsford, another local, well-respect animal hospital located in the wealthiest suburb of Rochester.

 

Henrietta Animal Hospital Fee

Animal Hospital of Pittsford Fee

Fecal-Filtration

27.97

22.05

Waste disposal

4.40

1.50

Senior Bloodwork

106.50

96.30

Heartworm Test

48.50

39.50

Office charge to give a booster

38.93

0- no charge

Dental Cleaning & Oral Exam

$411.05 - $502.07

$274.65 for 60 lb Labrador

I can supply copies of Invoices from Animal Hospital of Pittsford to support the above.

 

I also went on the Internet and found the following related to average teeth cleaning charges

Typical costs:

  • A dog teeth cleaning typically costs between $70 and $350, depending on whether pre-anesthetic bloodwork is done as well as the difficulty of the job, including the amount of build-up on the teeth and under the gumline and whether periodontal disease is present.
  • The average claims amount submitted for dog teeth cleaning by Veterinary Pet Insurance policyholders is $292.


2. Refusal to give Heartworm prescriptions to Petmeds.com

I placed an order with Petmeds.com (because their prices were better) for Interceptor Heartworm treatment as follows:

Description

Ordered

Shipped

Price

 

Top of Form

 

Interceptor 12pk Green Dog 11-25lb Or Cat 1.5-6lb

1

0

$50.99

 

Bottom of Form

Top of Form

 

Interceptor 6pk Yellow Dog 26-50lb Or Cat 6-12lb

1

0

$35.99

 

Bottom of Form

Top of Form

 

Interceptor 12pk White Dog 51-100lb Or Cat 12-25lb

1

0

$84.99

 

Bottom of Form

 

PUMPUP coupon

1

1

-30.00

 

The total price of $111.97 includes free shipping.

Petmeds.com contacted Dr. Brownstein's clinic for a prescription and they refused to give it. I called the office to ask why and was told that they consider Petmeds.com to be disreputable and said that they were involved in some sort of lawsuit. I was told that I needed to buy the Heartworm from their website if I wanted a prescription. It is my understanding that the AVMA principles of ethics say that a veterinarian should, at a client's request, authorize prescriptions instead of only selling the medication themselves Does the law not require veterinarians to give their clients prescriptions when requested rather than sell the medication themselves? Petmeds.com has still not received the requested prescription and I want to buy this medication from them and not from Henrietta Animal Hospital.

 

3. Mistaken dosage of Metronidazole(flagyil) issued

On 7/17/09 I was given a prescription for 12 Metronidazole(flagyil) tablets 250Mg #514 for Marge. Later that day I received a message on my phone stating that they had issued me the wrong strength of Metronidazole(flagyil) and that I should cut the pills in half. This did not inspire confidence.

4. Unprofessional and rude treatment

I had an appointment on 7/30 at 3:50pm to pick up Bob and Buddy Ray after their teeth cleaning. I arrived early so that I could go over the 7/17 Invoice with Jackie and have the charges for the Tri-Heart adjusted. . I asked her to explain to me how she arrived at the charges for the TriHeart pills and she just got flustered and had no explanation. I told her that I expected them to match the prices they post on their website. Jackie went on the website to look at the medication pages and told me she had never looked at them before! Unbelievable as she appears to be the manager and she was training someone else the other day!!!!! Then she told me that the Tri-Heart Plus that I bought in the office was not sold on the site so there was no way to check the price. I told her that indeed it was and to scroll down but she could not find it. So here is the link to the site where the Tri Heart Plus is located.

http://henriettaanimalhospital.vetsourceweb.com/category,42143/productBrowseView/view/54000_HomeDelivery.pml And like I told Jackie, the Tri-Heart is at the bottom of the page.

I gave Jackie my credit card to get a credit for the Heartworm but refused to give me a credit or do anything to make this right. I was told that since I already gave the dogs the pills I was "out of luck" since I could not return them.

At that point I was very frustrated and angry but remained calm. Then I asked to see the bill for the dental work on Bob and Buddy Ray and the Lyme booster for Ernie. I was shocked when I saw the bill, especially when I saw the office charge for Ernie's booster. When I told that her she herself had told me there would be no office charge she just shrugged her shoulders implying "tough luck."

At that point I told Jackie that I wanted to speak to Dr. Bronstein. She disappeared in the back for quite some time. When she came back out she was alone. I asked where the Doctor was and she said "busy". Then she handed me a credit card slip to sign for the medications totally $163.93. Told her that I refused to sign and said I would dispute the charge.

During the time I was trying to deal with all this with Jackie, she and a young male helper were whispering and giggling right in front of me. I assumed it was about me, but regardless, incredibly rude and unprofessional.

Dr. Brownstein never came out of the back room to speak with me. She arrived at the office shortly after I did and there were no other clients present. She was in the back room the whole time I was dealing with Jackie and never bothered to come out. My appointment was for 3:50 and when she did not appear by 4:10 I left. Also, another client had arrived and I was reluctant to have this discussion in front of him. I told Jackie that I was leaving would dispute charge and never return.

I also consider it unethical for Dr. Brownstein to have her assistant tell me that Petmed.com is disreputable and in some sort of lawsuit. I would think she is opening herself up to legal action for damage to their reputation.

5. Lack of reports and consultation for services rendered

I did not receive any consultation during my 7/30 appointment regarding the results of the dental work on Bob or Buddy Ray. I also did not receive any report showing what was done. My sister, who recently had teeth cleaning done on her Labrador Retriever at the Animal Hospital of Pittsford, received a wonderful report of the dogs mouth and written explanation of all that was done. She is the one who supplied me the attached invoice for teeth cleaning from the Animal Hospital of Pittsford with charges of only $274.65 for a ten year old, 60 lb Labrador Retriever. The Animal Hospital of Pittsford charge includes a fluoride treatment we did not receive and were told would be an extra $75.

In Summary
I emailed Dr. Brownstein a letter prior to submitting this complaint and gave her the opportunity to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement. I called the office to tell them that I had sent the email to be sure they knew to look for it. Later that day I received a phone message stating that Dr. Brownstein's computer was not working and that she did not read my email. I was also told that they expected payment in full for services and medication rendered. This without Dr. Brownstein even having full knowledge of all that transpired with Jackie. I was also told that I was put on the "inactive" client list and that if I wish to discuss anything with Dr. Brownstein I could come out there and do it in person. I have no intention of driving all the way back out to their clinic to be kept waiting again and have Dr. Brownstein not appear.

I have total respect for Dr. Brownstein's knowledge and skill as a veterinarian. I like the fact that she has a single doctor practice and this is the type of business I would have liked to support. But, I have no respect for her business practices or ethics. I do not wish to harm her business or reputation but I do expect reimbursement for excessive charges and an apology would be appreciated.

I am eager to receive a response from the New York State Board for Veterinary Medicine. Any advice you can give on how to resolve this dispute will be greatly appreciated. I would also like an opinion on whether I am justified in my complaint and if my views of the situation are valid.

Expert:  Legalease replied 4 years ago.
Hi Chester - I am a lawyer here at Just Answer and your question was transferred to the legal site by I guess it was the veterinary just answer site where you asked your question.

Were you looking for a legal opinion or for a VET to conitnue to review your issues?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I guess I am not sure. It seems like pretty small potatoes legally, since the total I am seeking as a refund is only in the $1000 range. I would really like to get this money back, but my #1 concern is for this Vet to not get away with this. I was asking a vet primarily to see if my complaints were legitimate and if there was a veterinary agency that I could report her to that would "slap her hand."

 

After speaking to others I have learned that she has a very negative reputation in regard to overcharging.

 

So, do I have any legal options? Does the fact that she charged double what was quoted leave me with any legal options? Did we have a verbal contract? If I were able to get a refund I would certainly be willing to pay a portion of that to JustASk.

 

By the way, I have owned my own business since the mid 70's and we have a great reputation. As a business owner I am appauled by her business practices.

 

This is the first time I have used "Just Ask" and I think it is great.

Expert:  Legalease replied 4 years ago.
I did read through your issues and complaint, and I do feel that you have some issues with this vet.I certainly hope you are going to use your sisters vet from now on. As an aside, I had my border collie's teeth cleaned about 5 years ago and the price was $150 - and that was at a vet who has a rep for being pricey also. I can't imagine it would be anymore than $250 - $300 today.

The complaint to the vet board is good. You should also send a certified letter to the vet and request a refund of what you feel you were overcharged (if youhave not done so already). If she is unresponsive, you should sign the matter up in small claims court. The amount you are owed does not justify hiring a lawyer, but if you go to your local district court thay will give you the forms at the clerk's office. You simply have to fill it out and the court will send a summons to the vet with a court date to appear. You never know, once she receives the summons, she may telephone you and be willing to talk. Or, she may have an attorney send you a letter -- but don't let that intimidate you -- if she has a lawyer it does not mean that the procedure at small claims is any different than it normally would be. You simply each present your side in your own words -- no fancy procedure, etc.

As far as JustAnswer representing you -- that's not something we do -- you simply ask a question (legal,vet, etc.) and we answer it -- we are not permitted to engage clients off of the site or we will lose our positions. Typically, the legal questions cost a bit more for an answer than a vet question, but you were forwarded here from the vet section, so that is okay. There is a method that you can give a small bonus after we are finished if you want to do that but it is not required.

Good Luck. As I said, the best way to handle this is through small claims. The monetary limit to us small claims is typically around $5,000, so you are all set there. Thank you for using Just Answer.com!

PLEASE PRESS GREEN ACCEPT BUTTON SO I WILL BE PAID FOR MY WORK. A BONUS & FEEDBACK ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED.   
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