For both U.S. humans and U.S. pets, end-of-life spending is high. (Photo: Thinkstock)

(Bloomberg) — Whatever factors are pushing up health care costs for American humans seem to extend to their four-legged friends.

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New research looks at pet and human health spending, and find that preference – not just regulatory and structural issues – could be helping to push up U.S. health care costs. 

Health care spending on pets has been growing strongly, and it offers some insight into what’s happening in the U.S. human health system, Stanford University’s Liran Einav and Atul Gupta and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Amy Finkelstein write in paper, posted behind a paywall, on the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The researchers find that many features of the pet health care sector are “remarkably similar” to those of the human industry. Both have seen rapid growth as a share of GDP over the last two decades and high end-of-life spending, for instance.

This is true despite the fact that insurance and regulation are both less prevalent in the pet health care world, and so “it should give us pause before attributing the large and rising health care costs in the U.S. solely to the prevalence of insurance and government involvement,” the authors write.

In the past, Finkelstein has worked on a number of well-known papers about the private long-term care insurance market.

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