Familiar veterinary bills introduced in Congress


One seeks to end a tax on awards to rural practitioners, the other would require veterinarians to hand over a written prescription for every medication.

For several years in a row, key players in organized veterinary medicine have adamantly fought a bill that would require veterinarians to hand clients a written prescription for every medication they prescribed for a patient. At the same time they have beseeched lawmakers to eliminate the tax on awards made to veterinarians serving in rural shortage areas. Neither bill has passed, to the simultaneous relief and consternation of many veterinarians involved in governmental affairs.

Now both bills are back, and efforts on both fronts are winding up again.

The Fairness to Pet Owners Act, first introduced in 2015 and reintroduced in 2016, lives again in the 115th Congress as H.R. 623, introduced by Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). As the bill summary reads, It “directs the Federal Trade Commission to require prescribers of animal drugs to verify prescriptions and provide copies of prescriptions to pet owners, pet owner designees, and pharmacies, without the prescriber demanding payment or establishing other conditions.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has re-upped its opposition to the bill, maintaining that it would require veterinarians “to waste time on red tape instead of what's most important: caring for patients,” a statement on the AVMA website reads. “Many veterinary clinics are small businesses with limited administrative resources, so this extra regulatory burden may impact the number of patients they can see or even force pet care costs to rise for consumers.” 

The AVMA continues that in most cases, clients can get a written prescription simply by asking, and in many states a law or policy already regulates this process. “There's no need for extra federal regulation on this issue,” the association states. It is asking interested veterinarians to contact their representatives to express their opposition to the bill.

On the AVMA's “to pass” list, the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) Enhancement Act-also on a repeat trip through Congress-would lift the 39 percent tax on awards made through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program. These awards forgive up to $75,000 of participants' student loans in exchange for three years of work in areas where veterinary services are scarce.

S. 487, introduced by Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), is accompanied by companion bill H.R. 1268, introduced by U.S. Representatives Adrian Smith (R-Nebrask) and Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin).

As it stands now, federal loan repayment award recipients do not currently have to pay the 39 percent tax on the funds they receive. However, a large portion of the total amount the government allocates for the program-between $4 million and $5 million-goes to pay those taxes, reducing the number of awards that can be made. If the tax were not a factor, more than 100 additional veterinarians could have benefitted from the VMLRP since the program was instituted in 2010, according to a release from the AVMA.

“We're grateful our leaders in Congress are again supporting legislation to remove this tax and maximize the effectiveness of the VMLRP,” says AVMA President Tom Meyer, DVM. “The AVMA played a key role in implementing the VMLRP and will continue our strong support of the VMLRP Enhancement Act during 2017.”

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