Legislation restoring OTC eligibility for FSA reimbursement introduced in Congress

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., and Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., last week introduced the Family Health Care Flexibility Act, repealing restrictions placed on health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts in the President’s healthcare law. A provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, already in effect today, prohibits HSA and FSA participants from using their account dollars to purchase over the counter medicines without a prescription.  

According to Nielsen, 19 million American households participate in an FSA program, and approximately half (9.8 million) used their FSAs to purchase OTC medicines before the new law took effect in January 2011. 

“It defies logic for Washington to restrict and deny the flexibility so many American families need in using their health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts,” Paulsen said. “Forbidding families from using money they have set aside to purchase affordable over-the-counter medications, such as Claritin and Tylenol, not only wastes the time and money of families and individuals, but also places an additional burden on doctors and health professionals.” 

“These arbitrary and time-consuming changes are unwise and unfair to families trying to make good choices,” Johanns added. “Requiring prescriptions for aspirin or a doctor’s visit for hay-fever is not healthcare reform, it’s government overreach and interference. Families with children who have special needs are among those who rely heavily upon these accounts and they shouldn’t be punished. It’s time to restore these accounts and restore commonsense.”

“As a nation, we want to encourage Americans to make smart, efficient healthcare choices,” commented Scott Melville, president and CEO for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. “Access to OTC medicines empowers consumers and allows them to take greater control over their healthcare and their healthcare spending, as do FSAs, which were designed to help Americans.”

The Family Health Care Flexibility Act would also repeal the $2,500 contribution cap for FSAs that went into effect this year. 

The legislation currently has 11 cosponsors in the Senate and 35 in the House of Representatives. 

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