New bills in both chambers of Congress agree.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and three of his colleagues, Senators Rubio (R-FL), Barrasso (R-WY), and Johnson (R-WI), have introduced a bill that would allow Health Savings Account (HSA) funds to go toward dietary supplements without having to get a doctor’s prescription; the same would apply to health Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs).
The legislation, called the Health Savings Act of 2016, does this by expanding the term “medical care” to include vitamins, minerals, herbs, homeopathic remedies, and other natural health products, and would allow spending up to $1,000 each year. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Representative Erick Paulsen (R-MN).
Senator Hatch and Representative Paulsen introduced similar legislation in 2011 and 2013. The more support we can provide, the greater the chances that this legislation will either pass or be included in the next round of healthcare legislation. Patience and persistence will be rewarded. Please let Congress know how much this matters to you!
These bills are even more important because so many natural health advocates depend on HSAs and FSAs — they can be used for integrative doctor visits and treatments not covered by conventional insurance. And of course nutritional supplements are an integral part of natural health. Despite the fact that over half of Americans take supplements, most healthcare plans do not cover them. How many more consumers would supplement their diet if they were made more affordable? Expanding HSAs to include supplements will increase consumer access and choice, not to mention overall consumer health.
When the Affordable Care Act became law, there was a concern that HSAs would be eliminated, since they depend on the presence of high-deductible (“catastrophic”) insurance plans. We weren’t sure if any of the plans that qualified under Obamacare would be considered high-deductible enough for HSAs since the original goal of Obamacare was virtually to eliminate deductibles. As we all know now, the reverse occurred: deductibles have soared, so much so that most policy holders are now responsible for thousands of dollars of cost. The silver lining in this is that HSAs survived.
HSA plans slow the growth in healthcare spending. A 2012 study from the Rand Corporation found that families with consumer-directed health coverage like HSAs and FSAs spent an average of 21% less in the first year after switching from traditional coverage. The study found that if even half of consumers who had employer-sponsored coverage were in such plans, healthcare costs would fall by $57 billion.
Employers may also be waking up to these cost savings. Fully 66% of large companies offered one HSA-based plan option this year; this is expected to increase to 80%. Smaller companies have been shifting to HSAs as well.
© 2016 Alliance for Natural Health USA (ANH-USA), CC BY 3.0 US, re-posted with permission, originally published February 9, 2016