Should Pet Owners Have Medicare For Their Pets?

Medical care for our pets is something that pet owners struggle with daily, particularly when care and surgeries start adding up. Similar to humans, it’s been proven when our dogs and cats are treated regularly by their doctors, they live longer.

But also, like their masters, there can be hefty price tags associated with regular care. In extreme cases, they can bankrupt the care-giver or force them to make life-or-death decisions, in accordance with how much money we have in our bank accounts. Out-of-pocket spending on our pets is on the rise, and seeking federal help should at least be put on the table for consideration.

Medical Assistance in the States

For over fifty years, American citizens have have had the assistance of Medicare. But our pets do not. This leads many to believe our furry friends should receive similar benefits — particularly when it’s been proven that pets are closely aligned to their master's well-being. In a recent Pets For The Elderly report, it was noted that since our pets are an integral component of our social fabric, they most likely contribute to our mental and physical health as well.  

The Case of Kaya’s Bark

There are reasons to justify the need for federal assistance when it come to the care of our pets.  In 2015 alone, Americans spent more than $60 billion on caring for their pets.

Kaya, the Pitbull rescue dog owned by Samantha Bonar in Los Angeles was diagnosed recently with laryngeal rhabdomyosarcoma. This is a condition that resulted from a cancerous mass wrapping itself around the dog’s larynx. While Kaya did not show any physical discomfort, Bonar suspected a medical problem existed when the sound of Kaya's bark altered in tone.

After having him diagnosed by a veterinarian, Bonar paid nearly $20,000 to cover Kaya’s medical tab. Later that year, Bonar secured pet health insurance for $45 per month which was a wise move since Kaya experienced another mass — this time affecting his spinal cord. While the insurance company agreed to cover 80% of these new bills [above and beyond the insurance plan's normal coverage] Bonar was still out-of-pocket for thousands of additional dollars.

Pet Insurance

For pet owners incurring medical bills similar to Bonar, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [ASPCA] does provide a breakdown of insurance plans for our pets. From covering injuries only at the lowest level of coverage to advance care, pet owners can receive various quotes from insurance companies at a range of monthly fees. These plans can also include “wellness coverage” which covers regular check-ups as a value-add. These plans reimburse on up to 90% of covered veterinary costs — and in most instances, a pet owner can visit any licensed vet — even specialists.

Pet Power

It’s been proven that pets provide entertainment, companionship, comfort and just plain fun for many people. But, more importantly, they can also provide 'pet power' for the pet owner, in the form of health benefits. Among these are:

* Better heart health. Pet owners may have lower blood pressure, cholesterol and stress levels, which lower the risk of heart disease. People with pets also are more likely to survive a heart attack. (American Journal of Cardiology, 1995)

* Good exercise. The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association recommend walking with a pet as part of a healthy lifestyle. As a bonus, walking a pet may help smooth the way to meeting neighbors and other pet owners.

* Less loneliness and depression. Caring for a pet may help some people feel needed. And pet owners laugh more often than people without pets. (Society & Animals, 2006)

If this be the case, what are your thoughts, readers? Should the government add a pet stipend to existing health plans when our pets reach a certain age, particularly to subsidize pet owners already on Medicare themselves? Comment below and let us know your thoughts?