Have a pet? Then you may want to take a look at how the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, will impact your pocketbook. On October 8, 2013, Capital Public Radio published an article stating that veterinarians are against the medical device tax because it will raise the cost of veterinary care for all their patients. The tax is being levied on devices like ultrasound and x-ray equipment. Unlike hospitals and doctors offices that cater to humans, veterinary practices will not see additional income from new patients from the ACA. Instead, they stand to loose money, making the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unfair to pet owners.
Medical device tax
The 2.3 percent medical device tax was included in the ACA to help offset the cost of the program. Hospitals and doctors are supposed to see an increase in patients due to expanded medical coverage for those humans who are currently uninsured. The problem is that the tax is being levied on veterinary practices as well. Your pet will never be covered under Obamacare and your vet is not going to see an increase in patients. But, they are still required to pay the tax when they purchase new or updated equipment.
To the dismay of pet owners, this cost will be passed on to them. In times of economic downturn, pet health care gets sidelined. If a family is struggling to pay their bills, Fido will not be getting his yearly check-up, and many families facing financial hardships may decide against expensive flea and tick protection for their pets.
The tax is not minimal. Diagnostic lab equipment used for IV fluids, ultrasound, x-rays, blood work, and laser therapy is expensive. If a veterinarian has to pay $40,000 or more for a piece of equipment, 2.3 percent of that purchase adds up quickly. These diagnostic items are not labeled exclusively for veterinary use, so they are subject to the tax. It could be enough of a financial burden for smaller veterinary practices to turn away animal shelters and other rescue organizations, as they normally get discounted rates.
Impact on animal shelters
Increased vet fees will have an impact on the number of animals no-kill shelters can take in. It will force these shelters to carefully screen which animals they can accommodate. This puts animals with health issues at risk for euthanasia because shelters will not take them.
Public shelters and other shelters with a euthanasia policy will be putting more animals down as medical costs increase for the facilities. They will have to reduce head count in order to keep up with spiraling costs. Fewer animals will be available for adoption and those with manageable health issues may lose their lives because it is too expensive to keep them.
Impact on pet owners
If a veterinary practice has to pay the excise tax, they will pass it on to their patients. Expect an increase in basic office visits and if your pet requires diagnostic procedures, the cost may become prohibitive. Added costs will prevent some pet owners from bringing their pets to the vet or from having diagnostic testing done. We can expect a rise in pets that are not vaccinated against rabies and other diseases. This poses a risk to human health as well as a risk to pets.
It is time to take a long, hard look at the true economic impact of the Affordable Care Act. Why punish veterinarians and pet owners in order to pay for a very expensive overhaul of health care in the United States.
Lynda Altman loves animals and is “mom” to three rescued dogs; Izzy, Sophie, and Romeo. She is very concerned about pet health issues. Prior to the birth of her 4th child, Lynda owned an exotic pet business. Get notices when this page is updated by clicking on the subscribe link, by email, or contact Lynda @fusgeyer on Twitter.