A broad coalition of industry groups representing retail pharmacies and makers of over-the-counter drugs is urging Congress to nullify a new health care reform requirement that would prevent consumers from using flexible spending accounts (FSAs) to buy nonprescription medicines.


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Retail News Breaks

Coalition calls for repeal of 'cough and cold tax'

November 22nd, 2010

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A broad coalition of industry groups representing retail pharmacies and makers of over-the-counter drugs is urging Congress to nullify a new health care reform requirement that would prevent consumers from using flexible spending accounts (FSAs) to buy nonprescription medicines.

The new provision, enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is slated to remove OTC medications from the list of eligible medical expenses for FSAs and health savings accounts (HSAs), effective Jan. 1.

In a letter sent late last week to House and Senate leaders, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Grocers Association, the Food Marketing Institute, the American Pharmacists Association and the National Community Pharmacists Association called on lawmakers to repeal or delay this provision. The coalition — represents 39,000 pharmacies, 27,000 retail food stores, 62,000 pharmacists and the manufacturers of OTC medications — said the new restrictions would impact 35 million Americans.

"Meaningful health care reform is about increasing access and cutting costs. Removing OTCs from FSA eligibility is counter to that philosophy and forces consumers to obtain a prescription to use money from their FSA accounts to purchase the OTC medicines they depend on as a first line of defense for their families' health care needs," CHPA president and chief executive officer Scott Melville said in a statement.

"These medicines save consumers billions of dollars annually through fewer unnecessary doctors' visits, less time lost from work, and the cost advantage OTC medicines generally carry in comparison to prescription drugs," the letter stated. "Prohibiting the use of FSA funds to purchase these medicines, or requiring documentation from a doctor that OTCs are being used to treat a medical condition, would limit access and greatly reduce the cost-efficiencies associated with these medicines."

The coalition said FSAs are offered by 85% of large employers, make everyday medical expenses more affordable, and encourage smart health care decisions by employers and employees — points that are all consistent with the goals of health care reform.

"This new restriction will eliminate a tool that 35 million Americans have come to depend on to cost-effectively purchase medicines they need, when they need them," noted Melville. "As Congress considers extensions of current tax cut policy, they should also be mindful of the middle-class working families who will see their FSA benefits slashed if this provision is not repealed."

NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson commented, "As the face of neighborhood health care, pharmacies are in the business of providing remedies in an accessible, consumer-friendly way. These new rules inject consumer confusion and logistical burdens that disrupt efficient patient care, at the exact time when patients are feeling their worst."

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