Obamacare’s Latest Critic: Your Pet

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Adam Sternin / cavan images

Add another group to the list of those facing higher costs under Obamacare — pets.

That’s right — cats, dogs, birds, and any family pet who sees the vet frequently will tally up higher bills for their owners. That’s because of the 2.3% medical device tax added this year to everything from artificial hips to defibrillators ensure that device manufacturers played their part in subsidizing the cost of expanding health care coverage to those who would be newly covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The added fees, the tax’s advocates argued, would be offset by the greater volume of patients now eligible for reimbursement for the devices.

The tax applies to equipment and machinery as well, including ultrasound and X-ray devices, and veterinarians are charged the tax since they use the same machines, which are designed for people, on pets. But vets aren’t benefiting from the influx of new insured patients, they argue, since the ACA doesn’t extend to four-legged or feathered beneficiaries, and therefore should be exempt from the tax.

In an interview with NPR, Dr. Douglas Aspros, a veterinarian at Pound Ridge Veterinary Center in Pound Ridge, New York and past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, says the veterinarian community is suffering unfairly from the device tax. “We are not getting any more patients from the Affordable Care Act, and we should not be pulled into this,” he says.

The American Veterinary Medical Association, which represents over 84,000 vets, is teaming up with businesses and device makers to repeal the tax. Aspros told NPR that the tax can be a burden when non-pet specific devices cost upwards of $30,000. To make up for the added expense, he said some veterinarians are passing on the cost to their patients, which is contributing to a drop in visits from pet owners.