Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bend Over Rover

Today’s New York Times article entitled “Vet Hospitals Compete for Best In Show” represents a healthcare business opportunity the size of which takes the breath away.

Logistically, we have arrived at a moment where the pet health care industry stands poised to be organized just like our human one. If the animal health care industry follows the same roadmap, we can expect that the real beneficiaries of the over-the-top care described in the article to be the remora-like support services that are sure to grow around the hapless pet and pet caregiver.

Think of how many sectors of the healthcare business world will pile on to Rover or Whiskers. Before, Whiskers was the family feline who might get an occasional feline distemper shot. Now Whiskers is a potential gold mine for a whole new multi-faceted revenue stream! And who ever dreamed of this same potential for the family ferret? Think of the millions and millions new health care consumers this market has – it’s an animal hospital executive’s wet dream!

And the animal hospital industry has already started the spin:
‘The bond that people have with their pets is increasing exponentially, the closeness they feel, viewing them as family members,” said Dr. Thomas Carpenter, president of the American Animal Hospital Association.
Soon quality care initiatives, innumerable pet “best-practice” guidelines, establishment of the new Animal Electronic Medical Record, new billing and diagnosis codes organized by each species, establishment of the Department of Health and Animal Services (HAS) which oversees such agencies as the Department of Mammalian Services (DMS) which, happily, can be further subdivided into the Department of Canine, Feline and Rodent Services. (DCFrS) can be created.

Of course it would be unconscionable to leave our fine furry and feathered friends without legal protection. If a family experiences emotional angst when Fido is felled by the overly-eager veterinarian, the grieving family should have legal recourse. And with the need to develop ever-helpful animal care regulations, who will represent the animal lawyers’ interests, the Animal Bar Association (ABA)?

But the costs are already too high to directly pay for all of these services. Enter the animal health insurance industry, ever eager to defray the costs to the struggling animal health care consumer. to preserve profits, the animal health care insurers will be forced to reduce the reimbursements to their veterinarians who will be forced to see more and more pets in less and less time. And of course, since the insurance industry is willing to shoulder this prodigious burden, one can only expect that they would be willing to underwrite these humanitarian (animalitarian?) efforts by being allowed to exploit the obvious data-mining opportunities; Nestle (Purina), Procter and Gamble (think Iams), Del Monte Foods (Milkbones) and others will benefit from new ways to target their carefully-researched heart-healthy diets to the family pet.

But don’t leave out Big Pharma and the Medical Device Industry. They would not want to risk appearing unconcerned if they did not move to quickly to develop new drugs and devices to respond to the ever-changing needs of our animal friends. Canaries, after all still lack water-based treadmills. Lunches and speaker revenues for the veterinarians willing to promote their products will flourish. The US Food and Drug Administration, ever in need of new funding sources for more oversight staff to monitor this burgeoning health care market, will be funded, of course, by the very same pharmaceutical and device industry interests.

But don’t worry, for those uncomfortable with these corporate and governmental health care solutions, there is already a community of animal healers, “channelers” and alternative health care experts standing ready to assist.

When so much money stands to be made by so many people, trivial concerns involving morality, priorities, allocation of resources are obscured by third-party profit motives. If we find the animal health care scenario portrayed today in the New York Times to be morally objectionable, perhaps we should ask ourselves why the grotesque profit pyramid for human care is also not morally repugnant.


Photo credit.

1 comment:

rlbates said...

Isn't this the truth? No health insurance for my dogs, but am guilty of paying for a total hip for a labrador (Columbo died four years ago of an abdominal cancer, no definitive pathology despite both vet and human pathologist looking at it) and then his tumor debulking surgery twice. What can I say, he had become a part of the family.