Now Playing at Treat Me Like a Dog!


When it comes to health care, who gets treated better—man or man's best friend? Of course, it's hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison when you're comparing four-legged patients to people, and there are many ways in which human care tops pet care. But pet owners told there are some ways where it would be a step up to be treated like a dog.

Pet owners like the convenience of animal care; they also like the client-focused atmosphere. "I think one of the things that human health care can learn from veterinary medicine is the client service side of things, the relationship side of things," says Dr. Peter Weinstein, executive director of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association. Various reasons explain why people often find animal care so pleasant, says Weinstein. One reason—animal care workers love what they do. Another reason—competition.

Weinstein notes that vets work hard to differentiate themselves from their competitors because "there are a large number of vet hospitals, many located very closely to one another." And vets know even more competitors could emerge because less red tape makes it easier to open an animal hospital. Weinstein recalls opening his clinic, which offered everything from X-rays to operations: "I believe it was 12 weeks from the time I signed the lease to the time I saw my first client. Try doing that with human health care."

It would take at least 20 times as long to open a comparable human hospital in California. It can take even longer in the 34 states with "certificate of need" (CON) laws, where state agencies—not consumers—decide how many hospitals there should be. These laws even allow existing hospitals to hold up plans for new hospitals. "The existing hospitals go in front of these government agencies and say, 'we don't need any competitors; we're taking fine care of the people,'" explains Reason magazine's Ronald Bailey. Recently, certificate of need—often called CON law—provoked a showdown in Tennessee where frustrated residents resorted to protests and petition drives to pressure the state to green-light a new hospital.

Weinstein is happy veterinarians don't have to deal with anti-competitive CON laws, "In veterinary medicine we could have two practices right next to each other and then it's the consumer deciding to whom they want to go." Consumer choice and competition—maybe we could use more of that in human health care.

"Treat Me Like a Dog" is written and produced by Ted Balaker, who also hosts. The director of photography is Alex Manning, the field producer is Paul Detrick and the animations were done by Hawk Jensen.

Approximately six minutes. Click here for embed code and downloadable versions.

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