WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — If the ultimate goal of the Affordable Care Act is to save money and expand patient care, then making patients visit their physicians and get prescriptions just to get reimbursed for over-the-counter medications — which wastes money, as well as the time of physicians, a precious commodity when the country is set to have a shortage of them — makes no sense.
(THE NEWS: Op-ed: CHPA, AMA call on Congress to repeal OTC Rx-only FSA provision. For the full story, click here)
When done responsibly, using OTCs to self-medicate for certain ailments can save patients a lot of money, especially when cheaper, private-label drugs are available. One reason why the United States spends so much money on health care while getting so little value in return is because of patients receiving care that ultimately proves unnecessary and redundant.
So it’s little wonder that American Medical Association president Peter Carmel joined Consumer Healthcare Products Association president and CEO Scott Melville in promoting the Restoring Access to Medication Act, which would repeal a counterproductive provision of the Affordable Care Act.
Of course, emphasis must be placed on the word “responsibly,” with regard to self-medication: the Great Recession prompted many American consumers to try and save money by switching from prescription drugs to cheaper OTC medications. In many cases, however, such decisions proved no wiser than not taking any medication, with research in early 2009 by the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy turning up such examples as a woman who wound up in the hospital after replacing prescription blood-pressure medication with an herbal treatment.
But when the majority of physicians are recommending that patients try OTC medications to address certain ailments before going to the doctor, then it’s a bit of medical advice that Congress would do well to heed.