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EDITORIAL: And now even the dogs

Intended or not, Obamacare taxes veterinary care, too

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The president's health care reform was supposed to make medical treatment more affordable, especially for the uninsured. The closer we come to implementation, we can count the ways it won't. Visits to the doctor will be very expensive, not just for humans, but for dogs, cats and even goldfish.

This is so because Obamacare includes a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices, a levy that took effect at the first of the year. The Internal Revenue Service rules do exempt instruments only used on animals from the tax, but there are many "dual use" devices that can also be used with human patients, such as IV pumps, catheters, scalpels, anesthesia equipment, even latex examination gloves whether used for man or beast. These common items are swept into the tax's broad definitions. The cost of treating heartworm will go up with the cost of treating heartburn.

As their expenses increase, veterinarians will have to pass along the added costs to pet owners. It will be more expensive to properly treat man's best friend, and vets are understandably concerned that low- and moderate-income families may put off treatment for furry and feathered friends.

"Congress never intended for this tax to [have an impact on] veterinary medicine, and unfortunately, it has," Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association, told Miami's WFOR-TV. "And I think that's very unfortunate that veterinary medicine now is subsidizing human health care." Chalk up another one for the law of unintended consequences.

Charitable groups that help struggling pet owners pay for veterinary care raise alarms, too. Carol Smock, the founder of the Brown Dog Foundation, fears her group "is going to be overwhelmed with requests."

The American Pet Products Association estimates that Americans will spend $14.2 billion on veterinary care in 2013, up from $11 billion in 2010. Instead of seeing the alleviation of the suffering of four-legged members of many families as a noble goal, Obamacare sees veterinary care as a revenue-raiser.

There's not much that can be done about it; congressional Republican leaders have run out of options. At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Sen. Mitch McConnell conceded, "We gave it everything we had, everything we had, and we just barely lost the legislative fight." But he says he isn't giving up the fight.

Driving up the cost of pet care is one of many surprises tucked away in what has become an out-of-control expansion of government. Mr. McConnell tweeted a photograph last week illustrating the magnitude of Obamacare regulations. "This is over 20,000 pages," the minority leader wrote of the 7-foot-tall stack of bureaucracy. Every week, the stack, like a Doberman puppy, grows taller."

The Washington Times


Correction: An earlier version of this article misquoted Sen. Mitch McConnell on the legislative fight over Obamacare. The text has been updated to accurately reflect his comments.

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