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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13201/treat-us-like-animals-please/

Treat Us Like Animals, Please!

July 8, 2010 by

I was just at the veterinarian’s office with a puppy, getting shots for the pooch and generally checking his health, dealing with fleas, and looking into this issue and that. The doctor spent quite the time with me and the dog, gave us free stuff, administered various shots, and helped in many ways.

As we explored various options, he mentioned the price of each service along with the prices of alternatives. In fact, prices were part of his language, same as with any service provider. As we left, the bill came. It was $65 for the entire treatment that day, which struck me as completely reasonable. Most importantly, it was fully transparent and open: fee for service and fee for goods.

In other words, it worked the same as any other normal market. There is no co-pay, no crazy federal programs funding my right to a worm-free dog, no vast subsidies or penalties, no schemes for redistribution and equality. There is private pet health insurance available for catastrophic things, but not regular maintenance, and hardly anyone goes for this stuff in any case. It wouldn’t make any sense. No employer is on the hook to cough up premiums for pet health insurance.

And guess what? Googleing around shows me that pet medical care prices are not beyond the normal inflation rate. There is no crisis, no frenzied attempt to over-medicate, no push to restrict services because that’s what the insurer wants, no vast distortions in the market, no waiting lines, no hysterical attempt to immunize the doctor from lawsuits, or anything else. It was as normal and predictable as going to the grocery store.

It strikes me that we have a pretty good model here for reforming human health care. Just treat us all like animals and the whole system would be largely repaired.


David July 8, 2010 at 9:58 am

The government seems to move in the other direction. I’m waiting for the pet-health-care bubble to develop the next time the government has to bail out insurance companies and/or universities.

newson July 8, 2010 at 10:07 am

let’s not forget the pro bono aspect, too. the vet round the corner from me always puts an injured native bird or animal to sleep gratis if someone brings it in and nothing can be done. not all vets oblige, but it’s a reminder of how much more a vocation medicine used to be.

the institutional setting here in australia is similar to the us, vets are private, medicine is an hybrid of public and private.

Old Prof. Otter September 18, 2010 at 10:37 pm

So when you get too injured or old, there should be a pro-bono to help put you down?

The reason pet medicine and for that matter Japan medicine is low price is a low amount of malpractice payments, and a low number when paid. When fluffy dies because of a doctor oopsie, the max the doctor pays is the market value of fluffy. For a US human, that could be $1M not $1K or less.

Bogart July 8, 2010 at 10:11 am

Look at the wait times for MRI machines in Canada for humans vs dogs, cats and horses?

George July 8, 2010 at 12:18 pm

You don’t have to wait if you pay. That is an option in Canada, you know, and a very easy option to take. Whatever flaws Canada has, health care is not really one of them. Not when you compare it to the system in the US, anyways.

Smoove July 8, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Sounds like Canadians are paying twice. They pay taxes for “free” healthcare, and then an additional fee to avoid the system.

George July 8, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Unfortunately, that’s true. Although private insurers usually cover these fees, it is still a real cost.

Don’t forget though: US total government spending as a % of GDP is about as high, and your tax burden isn’t so far off!

RWW July 8, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Sounds like education in the US.

bob October 19, 2010 at 2:32 pm

George –you must be kidding about the worst health system=Canadian–I have run across however I only have experience w/Ontario maybe you are from out west. Too many friends wait too long & two have died because of the non-caring wait. However WHERE DO YOU PAY for this option. I’m interested.

Mammal May 18, 2011 at 5:32 am

Bogart you are dead on. My dog had what’s known as Anisocoria…one pupil was dilated and did not respond to light at all. The vet thought it could be a brain tumor (among other things) but to get an MRI required (this is the truth) two days of travel to another city two hours away. I never even got to the point of asking about cost because losing two days from work was out of the question. People don’t realize how great our medical care is here in the USA. Two of the main reasons for skyrocketing costs are the need for tort reform (as Old Prof. Otter noted) and too many non-paying users in the system…whether American or otherwise. I know this because a doctor I know actually said it…not because some political talking-head wanted it to be the case.

RWW July 8, 2010 at 10:17 am

What a powerful point to bring up when discussing what health services could be like in a free market.

Horst Muhlmann July 8, 2010 at 10:27 am

About a year ago, I quipped to my vet that if Obamacare passed, I was going to start seeing her when I get sick.

Fephisto July 8, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Did she agree to treat you?

(if so, where’s her office? :P)

uh huh October 5, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Awesome, So how’s your new doctor? Did she take your temperature through your anus? I love how you adopted Fox’s slogans as your actual thoughts since you aren’t quite capable of producing your own.

I don’t know where you found such a cheap vet by the way, Office visits cost more for my dog especially after treatment, shots, and if there was medication required than they do for me, even if I received all the same treatments.

For people who think that reforming healthcare is as simple as modeling it after the veterinary system, you seriously lack critical thinking skills.

Abhilash Nambiar July 8, 2010 at 10:30 am

There is some overlap between treating humans and treating animals. But legally vets are not allowed to give medical advice to human beings unless of course it is about their animals.

Horst Muhlmann July 8, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Kramer already found a way around that.


Nate July 8, 2010 at 10:31 am

The price for medication is much cheaper as well, and most are quite similar to the version used for humans.

JTK October 10, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Yes, the corporations charge a reasonable rate for medications for animals and a vastly increased rate for humans. This is why regulations are necessary. Thanks for not being a libertarian.

tfr July 8, 2010 at 10:52 am

Yup, we treat our cats to kingly health services. Why not? The cost to do so is piddly. If my wife or I were to have the same tests, it would amount to $thousands.

Sean A July 8, 2010 at 10:56 am

This made me think of that South Park episode where they dress-up a kid they injured as a dog and take him to the vet so their parents don’t find out they were playing with weapons. This may be the answer to better medical treatment: start working on your animal impersonations

Joe Peric July 8, 2010 at 12:01 pm

If you don’t treat your animal to cheaply available, relatively free-market health care, you can get jailed for animal cruelty.
If you’re unable to get health care of any kind for a human family member… Obamacare!

Abhilash Nambiar July 8, 2010 at 1:26 pm

I did a google search and came up with a few cases of people being sent to jail for killing their pets in very brutal ways.



I have no sympathy for these people what so ever, nevertheless this must be subjective. I mean after all in Korea and some parts of China, people eat dogs.

I once joked within a mixed group that Korean chefs should train Indians how to cook dogs. That would solve the problem of strays in India while at the same time taking care of the starvation problem in India. The Koreans laughed, nobody else did.

Later I found out something along the lines was developed a very believable hoax by renowned hoaxer Joey Skaggs


Roy July 8, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Check out Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”.

Abhilash Nambiar July 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I have, did not like that one though it is a classic. I know it is only satire, but he is talking about children not kittens or puppies.

At least with animals there is always the libertarian justification. The only libertarian objection if any that I can find for the Dog Meat Restaurant is that the animal shelters are state owned. But that is not the case with children.

It is now time to keep repeating to myself.

Economics is a value free science.
Economics is a value free science.
Economics is a value free science.

L H ARAUJO July 8, 2010 at 12:14 pm

It’s funny but it”s true.

Rick July 8, 2010 at 1:27 pm

There are veterinary cancer specialists who can extend the time and quality of life for a pet depending on the type of cancer and if caught in time, and for a reasonable fee considering the circumstances of a cancer diagnosis. It’s not “cheap” by any means, but far more affordable than cancer treatment for human patients, and without a pile of confusing regulatory requirements. If a person cannot afford the fee out of pocket, then reasonable financing options are available.

Pet medical insurance is available but probably isn’t very necessary for younger dogs. I’ve heard that companies will only write insurance for dogs up to about 7 or 8 years old, depending on the breed. So given that older dogs need more care and dogs are prone to cancer as they age, getting an insurance policy in those middle years might make sense given that cancer specialists can extend the years and quality of life for a pet.

My dog died of cancer a couple years ago. But his regular vet and the vet cancer specialists worked very hard in trying to help him and were amazingly compassionate, much more than I could realistically expect and a lot more compassionate than the doctors who treated my grandmother not long ago. The people who eventually did the euthanasia service at home did so for a fee, but were also very nice and extremely compassionate in what has to be a difficult job.

Mammal August 5, 2011 at 7:56 am

We treated our precious Dixie Girl for lymphoma for 13 months of constant chemo for under $5,000. Cheap by any standards.

SirThinkALot July 8, 2010 at 1:30 pm

You can see something similar to this with areas that arent completely controled by insurance. For example I needed to get new glasses, and since my insurance doesnt cover glasses I went to Wall Mart’s Vision Center. I made an appointment for an exam the next day, I told the workers there that I wouldnt be using insurance, she explained to me the price for an exam, and for lenses, including the price for ‘options’ like no-glare coating, transitional lenses, different materials the lenses are made of and such. I paid straight cash(well, debit card), no need to fill out complicated forms or anything like that

All and all, my glasses, including the lenses and exam cost me $82.

Robert Brager July 8, 2010 at 1:50 pm

John Stossell made exactly the same point two years.


JB McMunn, M.D. July 8, 2010 at 4:26 pm

I am a physician and I have been telling my patients for years that if they want fast efficient care they should call a veterinarian. You’re seen the same day, get a physical exam, tests, and leave with the medication in hand. The next day they call you with the test results. The only part I don’t like is when they tell me my dog will need to eat special food for several days @ $1.50/can and it turns out to be hamburger and rice that I could have made myself.

The difference? Cash payment and no interference from insurance companies.

The insurance system disconnects consumers from prices. A 30-day supply of medication usually costs a lot more than a $20 co-pay, and so does an office visit. If I gave you a coupon for a car rental that allowed you to drive any car for $10/day would you pick the used Pinto? If medication co-pays were a percentage of the total cost people wouldn’t be pushing for the expensive drugs advertised on TV. They’d pay attention to what things cost.

IMHO, the insurance carriers should offer to pay a certain fee schedule and doctors should be able to charge whatever they want above that. If you can find a doctor who will accept 100% insurance, you’re a winner – no co-pay. OTOH, if there is a great doctor who everyone wants to see, that guy might charge a premium over insurance. Right now a terrible doctor gets the same fee as a great doctor.

This might sound self-serving (“let me charge as much as I want”), but I guarantee you a lot of doctors would be in for a rude awakening if they found out what value the market places on their services. I’ve had patients change doctors because their insurance changed and I would cost an extra $20/visit, so I know what value they placed on my services. Also, it really would be nice to be able to charge whatever I want, not the take-it-or-leave-it fees offered by the insurance monopolies.

Donald Rowe July 8, 2010 at 4:36 pm

“Also, it really would be nice to be able to charge whatever I want, not the take-it-or-leave-it fees offered by the insurance monopolies.”
Is it not possible to do this? If not, why not?

Derek V. July 8, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I believe the problem is that advertising your prices, or even discussing it, can get you kicked out of the AMA and cause you to lose medical certification. In other words, you can be a capitalist, or a doctor, but the state won’t allow both.

Donald Rowe July 9, 2010 at 6:57 am

“I believe the problem is that advertising your prices, or even discussing it, can get you kicked out of the AMA and cause you to lose medical certification.”

I did not know that the AMA had such power. If that is so, perhaps the problem of medical care cost has been misdiagnosed.

Kevin P September 7, 2010 at 3:58 am

Dont listen Mr. Rowe what he is saying is completely false. It is not against the law or the AMA to charge cash only visits. If you live in or near a large metropolitan area there are likely several Doctors or sometimes even clinics which will only see cash patients.

Alpheus June 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm

I don’t think the AMA has such power; but Medicare and Medicaid have the power, being government agencies, to say “Doctor charges X, Medicaid pays Y, Patient pays Z”, and it’s always the case that X < Y + Z, often substantially so. If a doctor tries to charge a regular patient less than a Medicaid patient, the government calls this "fraud", so costs go up for all.

Ash July 9, 2010 at 1:28 am

A similiar system of increasing quality with falling prices already exists for humans: it’s called cosmetic surgery.

mmeadows July 9, 2010 at 11:07 am

Insurance is the problem

Mandated Insurance is NOT the answer.

Dry Dreams July 9, 2010 at 6:28 pm

I’m not claiming to be 100% right on this, perhaps Dr. McMunn can help us out, but doesn’t the average doctor in the US spend some ridiculous percentage of their income on malpractice insurance? I have heard anywhere from 30-50%.

This leads to the issue of tort reform. When doctors, practices, entire hospitals, drug companies, and insurance companies can get sued for ungodly amounts and often lose, there will never be a real viable alternative to the current healthcare system.

I don’t want to see the ability to sue for wrongdoing on anyone’s part be restricted, but is say losing a pinky finger to someone that claims it has diminished their “beauty” worth $100 million? I’m making that up, but that’s what goes on for the most part. How many of those can hospitals, doctors, drug makers, and insurance companies absorb before either the costs escalate out of control or quality/quantity of services go down?

And how many doctors over-test and/or over prescribe just to try to cover all the bases against being sued?

Just my .02.

BPM January 27, 2011 at 11:32 pm

“And how many doctors over-test and/or over prescribe just to try to cover all the bases against being sued?”

I don’t believe this much anymore either. They over test and over prescribe because it makes them tons and tons of money. If you complain, hey – not our fault. We have to because you keep suing us! Now just give up your right to sue if we f*ck up your surgery and (wink wink) we’ll be able to charge you so much less!

Now, if that promised rate adjustment was enforced in the legislation along with the reforms…there wouldn’t be any lobbying or anything by our pals in the for profit health care industry, right?

Brian July 10, 2010 at 5:53 am

When authoring an article like this, is any consideration given to the difference in decision making between my animals health and my own? Will I make the same type of decisions for myself as I would for my dog? And if not, how does this affect applying the principles of vet care to doctor care in a market situation?

Mammal August 5, 2011 at 8:04 am

For me, personally, there was zero difference. I did everything possible for my Beagle (who had lymphoma) including contacting every experimental cancer treatment option I could find and begging them to take Dixie’s case on. None would, by the way. The only difference was the actual treatment available to dogs vs. humans. To my knowledge, dogs are treated only for quality of life improvement and length of life whereas they try to cure humans. She underwent chemo for 13 months at a total cost of, ready?, $5,000. I do understand the difference in the “type” of treatment they were doing but $5,000? I am happy to say I have no idea what 13 months of chemo would cost for a human but even in my personal ignorance on that, I am 100% sure it would be more than $5,000.

Dave Albin July 11, 2010 at 6:43 am

This is a good article, however, there is still the issue of vet licensing, meaning that only vets can do certain things that non-vets could do if legal. However, this list is small and there are usually ways around it, probably leading to lower prices through increased competition. So, vets must be competitive under these circumstances, but this could probably be enhanced even more by ditching the vet license.

william lucking July 11, 2010 at 7:36 am

I have to disagree with George on Canadian healthcare. I was born and raised there and left in my 30′s. The contrasts between the US and Canada are stark. Canada has virtually no technology, mass emmigration of their talent to the US, long lines, and virtually no treatment for cancer if you are over 60. This is all from experience. I’ll take the US system anyday. Having the freedom to choose and great care available beats the Cdn system anyday.

beli July 12, 2010 at 4:24 am

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Caspian July 12, 2010 at 11:38 am

Keep in mind that animals are regularly euthanized. An enormous portion of the cost of medical care (for humans that is) is incurred in the last year of life. While there are plenty of free-market lessons to be learned from veterinary medicine, we also need innovative market-based solutions for insurance against catastrophic losses.

Dan July 18, 2010 at 1:31 pm

You also can’t forget that if you bring a critically injured pet to an emergency vet with no ability to pay, they have absolutely no obligation to treat that pet. If you bring a critically injured person to an Emergency Department, they have a legal obligation to do everything possible to keep that person alive. That and the fact that while euthanasia is a common alternative to any sort of expensive end of life treatment for pets, for humans a dying old person who comes into the hospital will be aggressively resuscitated and stabilized.
The fact that there is no insurance is the reason vet services are more transparent than doctors, but the biggest reason they’re cheaper is that all services that extend the life of the pet have to compete with cheap euthanasia. Unless we want to allow and encourage that in humans (I don’t) modeling health care after veterinary care will do very little to drive prices down.

Finally in the case of insurance companies vs the government providing the money for health care, Medicare spends about 5% of its budget on administrative costs and other overhead while the average insurance company spends 17%. And the market doesn’t do an efficient job when many diseases left untreated result in frequent visits to the ED for lifesaving treatment (which, again, cannot be withheld) which will keep a patient alive for almost as long as the normal treatment (which costs more than most people can afford), but at a much higher price and with a lower quality of life.

mumu July 19, 2010 at 12:50 pm

You, are an idiot.

John Corey July 25, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Totally true have two cats and two dogs. Our vet is both fair and transparent while rendering excellent care. If only I could have care this good at reasonable cost.

John corey

Bark Off July 25, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Are you serious? Why would you make a post like that. It spoils things for everyone and does not make sense!

Kok Siong July 26, 2010 at 6:16 pm

In my opinion, even though they treat us like animal, the situation will remain unchange. Sometimes, we cannot take any advantage from the animal but we can always take advantage on human. We wish to be better than others. This is a common thing in the world.

David W Johnson July 29, 2010 at 3:31 pm

The vet is probably being very up front about costs because people tend to abandon their animals when the cost gets too high. Letting them know up front that the cost is an investment into the well-being of a treasured family member, and not a thing that needs fixing.

GMNightmare August 4, 2010 at 12:39 am

Less demand, less intensive care, smaller creatures, less medicine, far less malpractice issues, less illnesses treated, no need for large rooms to stay in, no hospital chefs or extensive cleaning, smaller cheaper buildings, less workers as tons of on-care nurses aren’t needed, and not near as good as service (don’t kid yourself, you couldn’t handle the treatment if you were the one on the table). Also, if your pet had a more serious injury it would be quite a bit more costly.

No for-profit insurance system.

You want to know the sad part of it is? The pet is fully covered, you’re paying in full and the pet pays nothing. That’s right, you aren’t arguing for what you think you are. Ironic isn’t it?

If you want to look at real good models for health-care, look at the rest of the developed world. All completely full health-care, with nearly as good to better than ours, in several different varieties all of which cheaper. We can practically take our pick, improve upon it if we wanted, and be fine. All Americans have to do is get their collective head out of their * and realize that we aren’t the best anymore… like, at all.

Alvaro Butler August 9, 2010 at 3:43 am

According to me, this is not about how they treat us, but precisely how we treat our fellow beings first. Reliable and good service, in my opinion, could be sought. Let’s hope and keep trying to make things better.

Alan August 11, 2010 at 5:27 pm

What if you couldn’t afford the €65?

Alex August 26, 2010 at 5:23 am

“There is no crisis, no frenzied attempt to over-medicate, no push to restrict services because that’s what the insurer wants, no vast distortions in the market, no waiting lines, no hysterical attempt to immunize the doctor from lawsuits”

In other words, no vital necessity and no scarcity.

Anon September 1, 2010 at 4:48 pm

You’re right.
F**k all the millions of other people who simply throw away/let there dog die whenever it gets too sick and they cannot afford to take car of it. As long as you have no trouble with upkeep it must be a good system.

Question the System September 8, 2010 at 12:06 am

I was thinking about that the other day. So many people take pets into their homes and as soon as they get sick they just let them die. It’s kind of sad but at the same time some people are really broke and can’t afford to be paying all that money for a surgical procedure on their pet. I can see how they would rather save that money for when it is needed in case of an emergency regarding their own family.

Dawn September 9, 2010 at 9:44 pm

I agree with some points you made, but have issue with the correlation between human health care versus pet health care.

1. Demand for pet care and thus wait times for MRIs and the like is low because many pet owners simply do not take their pets to the vet, sick or not.

2. The average life span of most pets is less than 20 years, not 70.

3. Most human afflictions do not affect pets, i.e. Alzheimer’s, STDs, mental illness, etc.

I do agree with the point made about pharmacuetical companies peddling their goods, as well as other points made above, but I think your argument is far too simplistic.

anonymous October 2, 2010 at 7:30 am

you’re naïve if you think that human afflictions do not parallel afflictions found in animals/pets to include afflictions similar in nature to Alzheimer’s, STDs, and yes, even, mental illness.

James September 17, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I think that a difference would be that not all humans have pets – owning one is a choice, but all humans will probably need hospital treatment at some point in their lives whether it’s their choice or not really, and this bumps up the price of prive healthcare.

Trevor September 23, 2010 at 3:55 pm

You’re serious? How are people agreeing to this like it’s perfectly rational to compare the medical field for small animals and human beings…. I thought this blog was sane…

Carpet Pensacola October 4, 2010 at 4:06 am

Its has really a big different on animal and human medication…
but i get your point on stating that we wish or we hope its just easy like doing animal medication to be like on Human. I find this article very interesting and seen so much feed back on the comments.

Xamuel October 4, 2010 at 9:52 pm

I wonder how much protectionism/monopoly there is surrounding the training to become a vet. Probably just a 4 year program which is fairly cheap and easy and offered by most universities. Hell, you could probably become a veterinary assistant just through community college. But to become a human doctor, you need a decade of ridiculously expensive training. And god help you, you’d better be able to move heaven and earth, if you want to even think about starting a new medical school of your own.

Helena October 23, 2010 at 1:20 pm

It certainly does make the expression “It’s a dog’s life” lose its meaning. I certainly know what you mean. This happens in my country also. Animals get pampered, humans are criticized for demanding decent service. Maybe because animals are vulnerable.

Harlowe Thrombey October 29, 2010 at 5:13 am

A lot of people put their dogs and cats down early because they cannot afford the later-life care.
Every day in America, someone is telling their child that they put their beloved pet “to sleep”.

If we had total pure capitalism, you’d have people putting grandpa “to sleep” right along with Rover.

No economic system is good in purity. Not one.

Hylas August 5, 2011 at 10:33 am

Capitalism doesnt claim to be good in purity, only as good as the people living in it. ure the market helps alot but in the end its up to the third sector fill in where the market cant or wont help.

AmericanHealthCareProvidersSon November 5, 2010 at 12:20 am

Emergency Room. Seriously, not even the internet can crack the great mystery that is modern Healthcare. It is not complicated people, the problem is the Emergency Room. It costs an exorbitant amount of money to pay on demand doctors. So sure dude, go to sparky’s clinic, see how that works out for you

Julie January 14, 2011 at 1:55 am

Simplistic bullsh*t.

If my dog had a brain tumor, I’d put it down. If I had a brain tumor, shopping around for the “optimal” price/quality ratio would not be the best use of my time.

If you want to be treated like a dog, be sure to avoid all human-oriented medicine.

BPM January 27, 2011 at 11:22 pm

If only the government would get out of the way doctors would be totally reasonable and only charge you $65.00 for an office visit.

People believe anything these days.

veterinary specialists July 13, 2011 at 7:04 am

Great info for veterinarians. I enjoyed the post on this and look forward to reading more.

Hylas August 5, 2011 at 10:30 am

The reason animal healthcare is simpler and costs less is that its not nearly as neccesary forpeople with pets. I’m sure the rates of people willing to put down a dog that has not yet lived a full life are much higher than those of people willing to euthanize their grandmother who has lived a full life.

Mammal August 5, 2011 at 3:38 pm

True Hylas.

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