Retail News Breaks
New coalition urges repeal of FSA restriction on OTCs
May 12th, 2011
WASHINGTON – A broad coalition of health care retailers, suppliers and organizations has called on Congress to repeal the requirement that prevents consumers from using flexible spending accounts (FSAs) to buy over-the-counter medicines without first getting a doctor's prescription.
The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) said Wednesday that the Health Choices Coalition — whose participants include retail pharmacy stakeholders such as CVS Caremark Corp., the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association, the Food Marketing Institute, the National Grocers Association and the Retail Industry Leaders Association — sent the letter this week to select members of Congress.
Before January, OTC medications were eligible for reimbursement under FSAs and other tax-preferred savings accounts. An estimated 19 million working American families purchased these medicines, which provide inexpensive relief from symptoms, through their FSAs.
"This issue is about empowering millions of American consumers to cost-effectively manage their families' healthcare needs," Bill Head, vice president of government affairs for CHPA, said in a statement. "The availability of OTC medicines through an employer-sponsored FSA provides valuable cost-savings to consumers, increases worker productivity, and encourages smart health care decisions by both employers and employees — all of which are consistent with the goals of health care reform."
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association earlier this year expressed their support for new House and Senate bills that would let consumers use FSAs and health savings accounts (HSAs) to buy OTC drugs without a prescription. The companion legislation — The Patients' Freedom to Choose Act of 2011, introduced by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R., Minn.) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R., Texas) — aims to change a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) health care reform law.
"We believe this provision has resulted in unintended consequences for health care providers and patients," Paul Kelly, vice president of federal government affairs for NACDS, said in a statement Wednesday. "We are respectfully asking that Congress takes action to lift the restrictions on tax-preferred savings accounts for OTC medicines in order to increase cost efficiencies in the health care system and give consumers control of their health care."
Also signing the letter to Congress as members of the Health Choices Coalition — which represents physicians, consumers, retailers, manufacturers, pharmacies, pharmacists, patients, pharmacy benefit managers, small businesses and employers — were Aetna, the American Academy of Dermatology Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Medical Association, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Society for Association Executives, the America's Health Insurance Plans, Bayer HealthCare Consumer Care, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Federation of Independent Business, Prime Therapeutics, RSjogren's Syndrome Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Wellpoint.
"Unfortunately, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act included a provision that limits coverage of OTC medicines," stated Shawn Martin, director of government relations for the Osteopathic Association. "Instead of saving consumers money and encouraging them to proactively address their health needs when they can and should, this provision will increase costs to the health care system and place a new burden on already over-burdened physician offices."
Last fall, NCPA and NACDS participated in a coalition that urged Congress to repeal the PPACA provision requiring a prescription for FSA/HSA purchases of OTC drugs, which the coalition members called a "cough and cold tax."
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