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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., on Tuesday introduced legislation that repeals a portion of Obamacare that prohibits people from using their medical savings account funds to buy over-the-counter medications. Under current law, plan participants may no longer use funds from these accounts to purchase OTC medications, unless they have a prescription for the medication.
“This prohibition takes away choice and flexibility from individuals about how to manage their health care expenses and adds yet another burden to physicians,” Roberts stated. “Rather than promoting cost-effectiveness and accessibility, this provision directs people to potentially more costly, less convenient, and more time-consuming alternatives.”
“We are encouraged by the Administration’s recent decision to permit FSA participants to roll over up to $500 from one year to the next, but we feel that more needs to be done to ensure that FSA and HSA users are not penalized by the medicine cabinet tax,” Scott Melville, president and CEO for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association stated in support of the legislation. “Thanks to the leadership of Sens. Roberts and Landrieu, there is now bipartisan, bicameral support for a change to the PPACA that would restore consumers’ rights to spend their FSA and HSA dollars on any medicine they need. When the president and leaders of both parties sit down to negotiate improvements to the PPACA, we believe this commonsense legislation should be at the top of their list.”
The legislation, S. 1647, repeals section 9003 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, restoring the ability of those participating in a medical savings account, such as a Flexible Savings Account, or other similar type of medical savings account, to use the funds to purchase OTC medications.
Nearly 50 million Americans participate in FSAs and other health savings accounts, Roberts noted.
On average, physicians say about 10% of office visits result from minor ailments which could be self-managed by patients, including by the use of OTC medicines. This amounts to over 40 million appointments each year that could be avoided with self-care, CHPA noted. A January 2012 study by Booz & Company estimated that OTCs provide $102 billion dollars in savings to our nation’s healthcare system every year. These benefits are realized through reduced doctor visits accounting for $77 billion of those savings and reduced drug costs accounting for $25 billion.
Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., and John Barrow, D-Ga.
The bill was cosponsored by Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Dean Heller, R-Nev.
The bill is supported by the Health Choices Coalition, which represents physicians, consumers, retailers, manufacturers, pharmacies, pharmacists, patients, pharmacy benefit managers, small businesses and employers in an effort to stop the unintended consequences resulting from the PPACA restriction on OTCs.