Animal Care v. People Care

Most of us are familiar with the current controversy and rhetoric surrounding health care reform. Critics call it socialism, or the more euphemistic “Obamacare,” while supporters prefer to use terms like “humanitarianism” and “health care revolution.” Both sides are persuasive in their arguments, but there may soon be a real-life case study to bring into the argument on the merits of public versus private healthcare.

The Sacramento Bee reported on Wednesday that the private Sacramento SPCA announced a potential merger with Sacramento city and county animal shelters by early next year. Under such a merger, the three entities would “leverage scarce resources and align programs” to the benefit of the 45,000 animals inducted into these shelters each year. This would alleviate economic strain on the city by shifting responsibility for funding the shelters to the private organization. Effectively, the merger would replace the current public health care system for animals with a new private health care system, complete with optional and variably-priced pet health insurance offered through the SPCA.

The SPCA’s Chief Executive Officer Rick Johnson stated that the merger “will improve the care homeless animals receive while in Sacramento shelters …. and will serve our community’s animals best.” (See Sacramento Bee). The merger will also allegedly “dramatically enhance” animal care, while simultaneously leading to a “leaner and more nimble” county budget.

Few critics have surfaced so far to decry the evils of private health care for our city’s animals, but the merger could provide interesting fuel for the human health care debate. If the privatization of our city’s animal shelters is successful in reforming the expensive animal health care field, what lessons can be drawn to improve our national private health care system? If it fails and we discover the long-standing public funding for animal care was, for all its downsides, the better system, might that encourage an optimistic view of so-called Obamacare?

Most people, supporters of private health care included, agree that at least some aspects of our current national health care system are broken. It remains to be seen, however, if the privatization of animal health care will revolutionize the system, or if we will revert to a past of doggie death panels and high county expenditures on animal control.

If you are interested in reading the Sacramento Bee’s story about the merger, click here:

And if you are interested in supporting the SPCA, go out and participate in the Doggie Dash, and event put on by the SPCA.  It is on June 4, 2011.  You can sign up here:

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