WASHINGTON — The Consumer Healthcare Products Association on Wednesday applauded the introduction of bipartisan, bicameral legislation in the U.S. Congress that would restore the ability of consumers to use their tax-preferred flexible spending arrangements and health savings accounts to purchase over-the-counter medicines. The legislation, “Restoring Access to Medication Act (RAMA) of 2017” (H.R. 394 and S. 85), was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and in the U.S. House by Reps. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., and Ron Kind, D-Wis.
“Americans are being asked to fund more of their healthcare expenses through higher deductibles and copays, so it’s more important than ever that cost-effective OTC medicines are treated the same as other eligible medical expenses in tax-preferred healthcare accounts,” stated Scott Melville, CHPA president and CEO. “Restoring OTC eligibility under FSAs and HSAs will help the more than 50 million consumers who use these accounts and who are looking to take greater ownership of their own health through responsible self-care.”
“For years, Kansans and folks across the country have used Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Savings Spending Accounts to help save and pay for over the counter medication. Unfortunately, President Obama’s healthcare law made use of these accounts more expensive and burdensome,” Jenkins reported. “This bipartisan legislation will repeal this tax so families and individuals can better manage their own healthcare expenses.”
“With cold and flu season in full swing many Wisconsinites are having to pay steep prices for over-the-counter medicines to treat their symptoms. The Restoring Access to Medication and Improving Health Savings Act will lower drug costs for Wisconsin families,” Kind added.
OTC medicine eligibility in tax-preferred accounts was removed in 2011 as one of the first-implemented provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Since that time, CHPA has been leading a broad national coalition – the Health Choices Coalition – advocating for restoration of this important consumer benefit. The HCC includes consumer advocates, policymakers, physicians, dentists, retailers, pharmacies, pharmacists, insurers, drug manufacturers and various employers.
Many Americans depend on OTC medicines as a first-line option for meeting family healthcare needs, and these medicines provide a safe, effective, affordable, and convenient means to alleviate the symptoms of minor to moderate ailments. More than 90% of Americans prefer to seek treatment with OTCs before seeing a healthcare provider, and nearly 90% of the physicians and pharmacists recommend that patients self-treat with OTC medicines before seeking physician care.
Self-care with OTCs helps reduce unnecessary doctor visits, reduce lost time from work, and provide a significant cost advantage for consumers. According to a study conducted by CHPA, OTCs save consumers and the healthcare system $102 billion each year, and for every dollar spent on OTC medications in the U.S., the healthcare system saves between $6 and $7.