Will the Affordable Care Act affect your pets?


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.

The increase is part of a new 2.3 percent federal excise tax on medical devices that just went into effect.

The tax will help fund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as "Obamacare," 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 going to be passed on," said veterinarian Dr. Mike Hatcher.

Medical devices used only on animals are exempt, but some items like IV pumps, scalpels and anesthesia equipment are used on both people and animals, and those can be taxed.

Hatcher says higher prices could have animal owners holding off on care and vets postponing the purchase of new devices.

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

The American Veterinary Medical Association doesn't yet know how much the new tax will indirectly cost, but they're not happy about it.

"Congress never intended 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 with the AMVA.

Carol Smock founded the Brown Dog Foundation, a charity that helps struggling pet owners pay for care. Now she's afraid her organization will be overwhelmed with requests.

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

As for Heiselman, she says despite the extra cost, she'll do what she has to do to find the money for vet bills.

"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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