It 's hard enough finding a doctor in rural South Dakota (that free market thingy is working so gosh-darn well for us). Apparently South Dakota's horses, cows, and other big critters have fewer health care choices as well: Chuck Clement reports in Friday's Madison Daily Leader that rural South Dakota has a worsening veterinarian shortage.
If you ride your horse to work in Sioux Falls or Rapid City, don't worry: apparently 39% of our vet's offices and 42% of vet-science workers are based in those two cities. But out in the small towns, our vets are getting older, and the vet schools aren't getting a lot of applicants to fill the pipeline.
Now I haven't looked into whether a universal single-payer not-for-profit coverage system would work the wonders on animal health care that it would for people health care. But Clement's article does point toward one parallel between the veterinarian and doctor shortages in rural South Dakota: both stem in part from high student debt. Young doctors graduate with $150K–$250K in debt; young vets graduate with an average debt of "only" $107K, but starting salaries are also a lot less for vets than for docs. When med or vet students graduate with that much debt, they can't afford to take a realtively low-paying job in Arlington or Bison, not if they want to get free and clear of that starting debt so they can buy a house and start a family.
I guess we could let the free market decide that 64 out of South Dakota's 66 counties just aren't worth having veterinarians or doctors. Or we could take some of that bailout money and use it to stimulate the rural economy.
How about this: declare medical and veterinary work to be national service. Fund an expansion of veterinary and medical schools at universities in rural areas (note to my neighbor Gerry Lange: let's see that bill of yours for a vet school at SDSU on January's agenda!). Forgive new vets' and docs' student debt, or at least give them zero-interest loans. Let's keep the rural economy healthy!
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