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by FiveBoxes Staff | 2008-03-02 9:45 

I know this guy who has a dog. A fairly large and powerful dog, who likes to play hard. (And when I say "large" I mean this dog weighs more than Nicole Ritchie.)

Unfortunately for the dog (and the guy) his dog tore the ACL in one of its legs, and will require surgery. They need to do fairly extensive surgery, involving cutting the bone, inserting a titanium plate and spacer, and a bunch of other stuff. Because of the extent of the surgery, the dog will require anesthesia, and a night’s stay at the vet hospital.

Why am I bringing this up on a political web site?

Because it got me thinking: The total cost for the surgery will be between $2500 and $2700. For everything. Compare that to an operation and overnight stay for an ACL repair on a human. Why the discrepancy in cost?

Vets undergo essentially the same training as doctors, and spend a similar amount of time and money in their careers. (And since they have to learn the anatomies and maladies of different types of animals, one may say their education is slightly more difficult.) The equipment in the O.R., the drugs used, and the procedures are all near-identical to their human equivalent. So why does this operation cost a tenth (or less) or what the same surgery would be for a human?

Let’s examine what veterinary healthcare lacks that human medicine has:

  • Government regulations (healthcare is the most-regulated industry in the U.S.)
  • HMOs and preferred providers
  • Lawsuits (are you listening, John Edwards?)
  • Outrageous malpractice insurance
  • Overpriced drugs

Some may say, "But vets don’t have patients that can’t afford to pay!" Sure they do. There are free and low-cost clinics in every major city, offering free vaccinations and spaying and neutering for next to nothing, and many vets will donate care to people who have a beloved pet but can’t pay. What’s funny is that a hundred years ago, doctors used to give away their services to the needy. But that was before government regulations, HMOs, lawsuits, and malpractice insurance have made it impossible for them to do so any longer.

So the next time I need an operation, can you take me to the vet?


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