Yikes! Pet Health Care Costs Are Increasing Rapidly

Though recent political efforts like Obamacare have certainly provided some relief to low-income families, the cost of health care in the United States remains wildly expensive. That’s true about care for both people and animals. Talk to pet owners, and they’ll most likely be able to tell you how unaffordable veterinary care can be.

Due to the rising costs of pet health care, Amy Finkelstein, Liran Einav and Atul Gupta – academics from MIT and Stanford University – decided to explore this subject further, recently releasing a paper entitled “Is American Pet Health Care (Also) Uniquely Inefficient?

The professors’ conclusion, as explained by Slate, is that pet health care mirrors human health care in America in a lot of ways. Most significantly, it seems that neither system has to be as expensive as it is.

Altogether, Americans paid for nearly $15.5 billion in veterinary services last year. While a vet bill still won’t set you back as much as it would to see a human doctor for a procedure, the cost of veterinary care is increasing rapidly.

From 1996 to 2012, human medical care expenses increased by 50 percent. In that same timeframe, pet health expenses increased by 60 percent. This current trajectory should alarm any animal lover who is rich in cuddles but not actual finances.

It’d be a mistake to chalk up these price increases to inflation. As the researchers discovered, pet health care accounts for a larger share of the GDP than it has historically. In other words, Americans are spending more of their incomes on vet bills than in decades past.

You could chalk it up to medical advancements, though. Veterinarians now know how to treat more pet ailments, often with new technology, than ever before. This increase in options has pet owners choosing pricier surgeries, drugs, etc. to take care of their animals.

According to the data, the area where pet owners are spending the biggest chunk of money is on end-of-life care. (That’s true of humans, too.) People want to ensure that their pets aren’t suffering much toward the end of their lives, and – if options exist – they’ll often choose to buy pills and surgeries that will extend the length of their pets’ lives.

It certainly doesn’t help that pet health care is generally considered a luxury expense in the eyes of economists. Since there’s no legal requirement for humans to blow their savings on expensive pet surgeries and the like, when people do choose to go through with it, it’s considered more of an indulgence.

Obviously, a lot of pet owners would be annoyed at the thought of labeling pet health care a luxury. Many wouldn’t dream of allowing their furry companions to die when treatment is available. From a rising cost perspective, it probably doesn’t help that veterinarians know full well that pet owners are willing to pay higher rates to save their animals.

Although pet insurance is slowly becoming more prevalent, it doesn’t appear to be fair to assign much blame to insurance companies for these rising health costs. At this point, only about 1 percent of all pet owners purchase health care plans for their animals, leaving 99 percent to pay vet bills out-of-pocket. Veterinary practices are raising prices independent of expecting insurance companies to pay whatever.

Even if pet owners are willing to spend whatever it takes to save their animals, the bottom line is that they shouldn’t have to go into debt to do it. The growing cost of pet health care is definitely something that deserves to be addressed, but given that Americans can’t even seem to agree that human health care should be affordable and accessible to all, pet owners might want to start budgeting for future vet bills now.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

61 comments

David F
David F1 years ago

The reason health care cost are rising so quickly:

https://www.prageru.com/courses/economics/why-healthcare-so-expensive

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william Miller
william Miller2 years ago

thanks

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Rosslyn O.
Rosslyn O2 years ago

When working as a vet nurse, I was impressed that my boss always charged the RRP of almost everything. Was he rich? 'No', but we had many wonderful faithful clients, who loved their animals as we cared about them all too. We were always busy, and never charged for wildlife, and stray sterilization. .... Vets have to purchase all their own equipment and have to pay to learn how to use it. But putting that aside, the constant costings of medications and even consult fee rises is making many of us think twice about going to the vet these days. Sadly this turns people to the internet and half guessing if that is the real problem their animal may have. I am a huge believer that if Vets could cut spaying and neutering prices to a very cost efficient amount we would not have this horror story of unwanted animals. I do however understand that if we owners need specialist treatment for our animals we will expect to pay for that professionalism.

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Sean Hardin
Sean Hardin2 years ago

RE Pet Insurance. I am in the process of switching from PetPlan to Nationwide which is a mutual insurance company that sells Pet Insurance (I am also switching to them for my renters insurance, that's a different topic though.)

The reason I am switching is because I got a notice from PetPlan that they will no longer be offering Zero Copay Policies. So when my policy which is their Zero Copay Policy is up for renewal, I will not longer be able to get that particular policy from them, I will have to settle for a Copay Policy.

When I got that notice from them, I immediately started calling other companies that have pet insurance to look for Zero Copay Options. Nationwide is the one I was able to find (used to be VPI, Nationwide took them over) that has a Zero Copay policy, and ironically at less expensive than what I have been paying to PetPlan.

It takes about 2 weeks for the policy to become active, as soon as my policy from Nationwide is active, I will be canceling PetPlan, and will never deal with them again.

Nationwide was my personal choice for 2 reasons, 1 they have Zero a Zero Copay policy that is ironically better priced than what PetPlan's Zero copay policy was, and 2 I like the fact that the company is a Mutual Insurance. For folks who don't what a Mutual Insurance company is, Mutual Insurance is similar to a Credit Union, so when you become a policy holder in a Mutual Insurance Company, you become part owner, and you get superior services, and most tim

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Anne H.
Anne H2 years ago

There should be a plan to help people in their vetinerary costs same as with kids

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Teresa Antela
Teresa Antela2 years ago

Pet Health Care costs have also been increasing here in Portugal.

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Terri S.
Terri S2 years ago

And where does the money go?? I've been a nurse for 35 years and still live paycheck to paycheck!! I'm sure vet techs are in the same place.

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Terri S.
Terri S2 years ago

Healthcare (human and animal) is ridiculous!!!

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