Health care spending on people vs. animals by mattsteinglass
July 20, 2009, 11:42 am
Filed under: Health

[by Matt]

There’s been a lot of attention paid to this chart from AEI’s Andrew Biggs, which conservative-leaning bloggers (Megan McArdleTyler CowenJim ManziArnold Kling, Greg Mankiw) argue show that the reason for rising health care spending is that people have more money to spend on health care:

Conor Clarke wrote a good riposte on this issue. I just have two points to add. First: Do we believe that rising expenditures on veterinary care for pets largely reflect a major increase in quality of life and longevity for pets? Or do we believe they largely reflect vets’ increasing success in convincing pet owners to pay for expensive treatments which they and their pets don’t need? I would tend to think that most expensive health care for poodles falls into the latter category.

I am, of course, not a poodle. But then again — here’s the second point — neither are the people who are making purchasing decisions about health care for poodles. In this sense, one of the points made by conservatives about the above chart — that unlike human health insurance, the vet care market is not complicated by third-party payers (i.e. insurance companies) — is quite wrong. In fact, veterinary care is always paid for by third parties (i.e. pet owners). No poodle has ever had to assess whether the cost of a hip replacement was worth the benefit.


3 Comments so far
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Well, one data point: we gave my old dog an MRI and then back surgery at huge expense ($4,000+) at age 4. Had he not had the surgery, we would have put him down, as he was in terrible pain. Instead he lived four more happy years.

Comment by Megan McArdle

I agree with your latter point. Just witnessed a friend going through this. She was told her dog needed over a thousand dollars worth of ‘care’. Decided to get a second opinion; what was needed cost under a hundred bucks. An easy scam for the unethical vet since animals can’t talk and the desire to properly caretake runs very deep in some owners.

Comment by Forrester McLeod

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