HEALTH

House Ways and Means Committee approves bill to improve OTC access, savings

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee on Thursday approved the Restoring Access to Medication Act of 2015 (H.R. 1270). The bill would essentially reverse a provision in the Affordable Care Act that significantly inhibited the use of health savings accounts or flexible spending accounts for the purchase of over-the-counter medicines. 
 
The bill restores over-the-counter medications to full tax-preferred status, allowing consumers to use their HSAs or FSAs to pay for these products without first obtaining a prescription.
 
“These are tools that let you, not the federal government, or some insurance company, be in control of your own health spending,” Rep. Lynn Jenkin, R-Kan., a co-sponsor of the legislation, said. “Not every time you get sick you should be forced to go to the doctor. You should be able to treat yourself and purchase the medicine you need because we all know that not all sicknesses require a doctor’s visit,” she said. "I’m pleased the Members of the Ways and Means committee agree with me and Congressman [Ron Kind, R-Wis.] and voted to advance my legislation to once again empower patients to make their own decisions and not make purchasing something as simple as cold medicine a bureaucratic burden. It is now my hope this bipartisan legislation is quickly brought to the House Floor for a vote.”
 
"According to a survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association in May 2015, the majority of Americans (75%) favor including OTCs in Flexible Spending Arrangements and Health Savings Accounts," noted Scott Melville, president and CEO for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. "In fact, the survey also showed that one-half of households use OTC medicines to treat a chronic or recurring condition.  These families would particularly benefit from OTC eligibility in FSAs and HSAs."
 
“This issue is essential to many concerns about healthcare, from access to cost-effectiveness," added Steven Anderson, president and CEO for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. "Allowing coverage for OTCs … would return some much-needed efficiency and consumer-empowerment in the treatment of easily managed conditions," he said. “To maximize the use of OTCs for the good of patient health, we urge the full House and the Senate to take prompt action to advance this important return to sound policy.” 
 
Prior to the Committee’s consideration of H.R. 1270, both CHPA and NACDS joined a total of 19 members of the Health Choices Coalition to send a letter to the Committee to urge its passage. The Coalition includes groups representing physicians, consumers, retailers, manufacturers, pharmacies, pharmacists, patients, insurers, small businesses and large employers.
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