Arnold Kling  

Health Care Policy for Pets

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John Ford writes,


It seems that Ipswich Hospital in England wants to capitalize on its underutilized XRT facilities to treat animals -- presumably on a fee-for-service basis.

...I'm thinking that the calculated price per unit treatment will be less for the pets because the hospital will be limited to charging only what pet owners will be willing to pay out of pocket.


I do believe that there is health insurance for pets, but my guess is that the market is relatively unregulated (nobody lobbying for mandates or forcing insurers to charge the same rate for sick pets as healthy pets). So there probably are all sorts of hypotheses about the economics of health care that could be tested by comparing data on pets with data on humans.


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COMMENTS (8 to date)
David N. Welton writes:

"Sorry to have to tell you kids, but we put grandpa down today."

Hrm...

Bruce G Charlton writes:

There is a really shocking underusage of scarce capital resources (such as MRI scanners, radiotherapy machines, operating theatres) etc in the UK - the lack of fee for service means that hospitals save money by using these up to the level at which they are contracted-to - but not beyond.

Also, the NHS is heavily unionized, and largely run for the benefit of the staff. The UK public sector workforce is now paid more than the private sector, for the first time...ever? Not that this stops them going on strike at about twice the rate of the private sector...

BTW the UK NHS has had a doubling, yes twice as much, in inflation adjusted funding over less than ten years. This has been a very pertinent test of socialism.

This was the hobby horse of the next prime minister - current Chancellor Gordon Brown. His aim was to provide a high quality and convenient public service, free at point of use. The experiment has failed.

Daublin writes:

Sounds great, Arnold! This reminds me of two analogous proposals. First, Milton Friedman suggests looking at dentistry, as a less-regulated area. Second, there is lasic eye surgery, which is much less regulated than other medical procedures.

That's three areas where we could test economic theories about health care systems. I would love to see them pursued.

Brad Hutchings writes:

Pet health insurance is quite unregulated. I've come to the conclusion that it's a bad deal for the adult dog. The puppy plans that cover shots and all the routine puppy tests and stuff are probably a good deal. If you end up with a sick puppy, it kinda sucks to drain your bank account before you really bond with it. Older dogs usually can't get health insurance. About the only thing I can envision insurance being a good deal for an adult dog is if it's involved in an accident, i.e. small dog surviving a large object dropped on it, or big dog being hit by a car.

Most of the expensive problems adult dogs face fall under the "breed specific" exemptions in the health plans. Think cancer or skin problems. BTW, fewer and fewer GP vets deal with specialized problems. A visit to a doggy dermatologist (referral from main vet) cost a friend of mine almost $1000 this past summer, and didn't do anything to solve the problem, despite three rounds of drugs and two biopsies. The dog is just itchy.

Phil writes:

That's the reverse of what people talk about here in Canada ... here, the waiting lists for MRIs are so long that people joke about going to a vet, where your dog can get an MRI immediately.

I believe it's pretty much illegal here to give MRIs for profit, except to animals.

Matthew Ponder writes:

I don’t know what to think about this. I see the benefit in keeping heath cost down by sharing the equipment but I also question how sanitary it is. On the other hand how much are these dogs really worth I think that is the real question. Are they worth the time and technology that could be better served by helping humans? What is the value of humans to animals? I understand a sentimental value this has always struck me as odd though. There are people that will replace a dog’s hip because he got hit by a car then turn him out again. Not only that, but these are usually the people that don’t have the money to waste on that kind of thing. The only way I see this to be a positive to everyone is that we use it one dogs that are highly trained like drug dogs.

AB writes:

Why not try to lower health costs by sharing the equipment? People bring up the issue of "how sanitary is that?" Equipment is shared between humans and I can think of plenty of humans that are less clean than my dogs, are they told that they can't use the equipment? Humans are becoming more attached to their pets and the idea of having pets instead of children is increasing. I haven't really given to much thought to pet insurance. Is it worth it?

Robert Speirs writes:

Pet accident insurance has always appealed to me as a potential money-maker. If little Foo-Foo gets run over, why not assuage your grief with a few bucks? And who's to know if the accident was really, you know, an accident?

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