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Thursday, March 14, 2013

How "Obamacare" Will Affect Pet Owners

Here in the US the government is in the early stages of starting to implement the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as "Obamacare" since it was heavily pushed by President Obama.  I'll try to stay mostly politically neutral, but it's no secret that I am socially and politically conservative, so you can probably guess my opinion on this particular piece of legislation.  The idea is that it is supposed to provide more and cheaper access to health care for people who don't normally have health insurance.  This is going to significantly increase costs in the US and will affect all citizens.  In order to help offset some of the costs of health care there are going to be new taxes and charges.  Okay, I understand this even if I disagree with the policy.  What surprised me was recent news of how this will affect the veterinary industry, and how this is a very unintended consequence of the law.

One of the new taxes is a 2.3% excise tax on all medical equipment.  Anything manufactured for the human medical industry is subject to this tax, effectively raising the costs of this equipment by 2.3%.  That cost will be passed on to the consumer, but is supposed to somehow be offset by lower costs elsewhere.  Okay, maybe some will understand that.  But there is a problem.

The tax is applicable to anything made for use in human medicine but not veterinary medicine.  Anything labeled exclusively for veterinary use is excluded and not taxed.  However, there is a lot of equipment we use in this profession that is also used in on humans.  That means that when we order this equipment for use in our veterinary practices we will pay 2.3% more.  And that increased cost will be passed on to the pet owner in the form of increased fees.

This isn't a good thing.  Some reports that I've read say that the costs will be minimal, but the end result is that veterinary care will increase, even if a little bit.  Unlike what is happening with human medical care in the US, the government isn't paying for our pet care.  In fact, the government is taxing pet care, even if unintentionally.  Because of the attempts to fix our broken health care system in people, we are putting more of a pinch on the purses of pet owners, and this may mean that people won't be able to provide their pets the care they need.

There are many unintended consequences here.  I wish the politicians had thought this through better.