Retail News Breaks
NACDS, NCPA back bill to restore FSA use for OTCs
November 7th, 2013
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association have endorsed the Restoring Access to Medication Act (S. 1647), which would allow consumers to buy over-the-counter medicines through flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) without a prescription.
NACDS and NCPA said Thursday that they are members of the Health Choices Coalition, which sent a letter of endorsement to the bill's leading sponsors, Sens. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) and Mary Landrieu (D., La.). The coalition's participantss also include groups representing consumers, physicians, health insurance plans and employers.
Introduced this week, S. 1647 aims to repeal section 9003 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and restore the ability of people with FSAs, HSAs and similar accounts to use those pretax funds to purchase OTC drugs without a doctor's prescription. Before Jan. 1, 2011, consumers had been able to use medical savings account funds to buy OTCs.
"The goal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was to expand access to affordable care. Unfortunately, the provision that limits coverage of OTC medicines will instead increase costs to the health care system and place new administrative burdens on already over-burdened physician offices," the coalition's letter to Roberts and Landrieu said.
"Millions of American families rely on flexible spending arrangements (FSAs) and other tax-preferred accounts to purchase these cost-effective medications," the coalition explained. "This issue is of critically important to the estimated 19 million working Americans who rely on voluntary contributions of pretax dollars to FSAs to help meet their basic health care needs, including the purchase of safe, affordable OTC medicines."
Citing a Consumer Healthcare Products Association survey, the coalition noted in the letter that over 90% of Americans prefer to seek treatment with OTCs before seeing a health care provider. Also, about 90% of physicians and pharmacists polled recommend that patients self-treat with OTC medicines before seeing a doctor.
"We believe this restriction on the use of tax-preferred accounts for the purchase of OTC medicines has resulted in unintended consequences to both physicians and patients," the coalition stated.
S. 1647 is a companion bill to House legislation (H.R. 2835) introduced in July by Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R., Kan.) and John Barrow (D., Ga.). Both NACDS and NCPA have supported similar bills that were introduced in previous sessions of Congress but weren't enacted.
According to NCPA, the ACA requirement has prompted complaints from some physicians and patients to community pharmacists.
"My patients shouldn't have to call a doctor every time they want to purchase an OTC product under their tax preferred account," pharmacist Eric Hamik of U Save Pharmacy in Kearney, Neb., commented after the introduction of earlier versions of the Restoring Access to Medication Act (H.R. 2529 and S. 1368). "I've also had several physicians tell me they are tiring of having to write prescriptions for OTC products. I am very supportive of this legislation, which returns the control of the transaction back to the patient where it belongs."
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