New federal health care law to impact pet care

Tax on certain medical items will likely be passed on to doctors and vets

By Allison McGinley - News Director

ORLANDO, Fla. -  The affordable health care act is kicking in this year. In eight months, open enrollment will begin. But here's something consumers may not have thought of, pet's care may be affected too.

The program designed to help humans may have pet owners paying more at the vet.

Dog owner Lori Heiselman was surprised when her veterinarian posted this warning on Facebook, "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 has tightened her belt to pay for the increase saying, "They're very important. They're members of the family."

Why the price increase?

It's part of a new two-point-three 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", commonly known as "Obamacare"

The law is intended for people, not pets.

But some medical devices which can be used on both-- like i-v pumps, sterile scalpels and anesthesia equipment will be taxed.

While manufacturers pay the tax-- a recent survey found more than half plan to pass along to vets-- who 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 veterinarian Mike Hatcher says higher prices could have animal owners holding off on medical care and vets postponing the purchase of new devices.

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

The American Veterinary Medical Association represents eighty-two thousand vets.

At this point, they don't know how much this new tax will indirectly cost them. 

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."

Carol Smock, who founded a charity that helps struggling pet owners pay for vet care, fears 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," said Smock.

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

Vets say if your pet is sick or acting strangely, don't delay care, that could just cause medical problems to get worse.

And if you're concerned with the cost of vet care, be sure and talk to your vet about payment plans or other financial options.

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