Affordable Care Act may affect your pet's veterinary care

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by KING 5 HealthLink

WHAS11.com

Posted on February 22, 2013 at 12:03 PM

Dog owner Lori Heiselman was surprised when her veterinarian posted a warning on Facebook that read: "Because medical equipment and supplies will be going up in cost, that extra expense will have to be passed on to the customers."

So Heiselman is already tightening her belt to pay for the increase in her dog's care.

“They're very important. They're members of the family,” she said.

Why the price increase? It's part of a new 2.3 percent federal excise tax on certain medical devices that just went into effect.

The tax will help fund "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," which is intended for people, not pets.

Manufacturers pay the tax, but a recent survey found more than half plan to pass it along.

Some vets say they can't afford it.

"I'm extremely concerned how this is going to be a hidden tax to our consumers that is, that is going to be passed on," said Dr. Mike Hatcher

Medical devices used only on animals are exempt, but items like IV pumps, sterile scalpels and anesthesia equipment, which are medical devices that have a "dual use," meaning they can be used on people and animals, will be taxed.

Veterinarian Mike Hatcher says higher prices could have animal owners holding off on medical care and discourage vets from purchasing new devices.

"Putting off an equipment purchase is something that can terribly effect our clients ability to have quality care,” he said.

The American Veterinary Medical Association represents 82,000 vets. At this point, they don't know how much this new tax will cost them.  They're waiting to hear from more device makers

"Congress never intended for this tax to impact veterinarian medicine and unfortunately it has, and I think that's very unfortunate that veterinarian medicine now is subsidizing human health care," said Dr. Mark Lutschaunig

Congressional sources who worked on the affordable care act say lawmakers tried to exclude vets from being impacted by the "dual use" medical devices tax, but it was too complicated.

Carol Smock founded the Brown Dog Foundation, a charity that helps struggling pet owners pay for vet care. She's afraid her organization is going to be overwhelmed with requests.

"The impact this price increase is going to have on any of those families I think will be pretty devastating,” she said.

Heiselman says she worries about other families, too, but she'll find the money for her four legged friends.

"We'll just have to cut back somewhere else,” she said.

Veterinarians say if you're concerned about the possible cost increase, talk to your vet about payment plans or other financial options.

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