A New Bill Would Include Nutritional Supplements in Health Savings Accounts

June 4, 2013
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iStock_000020404349XSmallHealth Savings Accounts are especially important for natural health consumers—and now they may become even more useful. Action Alert!

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and three of his colleagues have introduced S 1031, 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 Family and Retirement Health Investment Act of 2013, does this by expanding the term “medical care” to include dietary supplements, and it would allow spending up to $1,000 each year. A companion bill, HR 2194, was introduced in the House by Rep. Erick Paulsen (R-MN).

Sen. Hatch and Rep. Paulsen introduced similar legislation in 2011. Our concern at the time was that the president’s Affordable Care Act could invalidate HSAs altogether, making this legislation irrelevant; even Congress wasn’t sure whether HSAs would survive. As we explained then, the law that created HSAs made eligibility dependent on having a high-deductible (“catastrophic”) insurance plan; under the Affordable Care Act, catastrophic plans were effectively eliminated, and we weren’t sure if any of the plans that qualify under ObamaCare would be considered high-deductible enough for HSAs.

However, now that the Affordable Care Act rules have started being issued, it looks as if HSAs may be saved—most likely because of strong activist support from readers like you. Based on the actuarial analysis, some high-deductible plans may qualify as allowable bronze level plans on the insurance exchange. (These are insurance plans where the patient pays 40% of the bill, and the insurance plan picks up 60%.)

Many experts, including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, point to high deductible plans as one of the key factors slowing US healthcare spending. The share of employees enrolled in high-deductible plans surged to 13 percent in 2011 from 3 percent in 2006.

This is important legislation 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. Expanding HSAs to include supplements will increase consumer access and choice, not to mention overall consumer health.

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.

Action Alert! Write to your senators and representative and ask them to support the Hatch bill (in the Senate) and the Paulsen bill (in the House). Remind them that nutritional supplements are one of the cornerstones of an integrative approach to health, and can help reduce healthcare spending if consumers take a preventive approach to health using supplements. Please contact your legislators immediately!

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22 Responses to “A New Bill Would Include Nutritional Supplements in Health Savings Accounts”

  1. Minilån says:

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       0 likes

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Sounds like a good thing on the surface but I fear that once dietary supplements become an accepted part of conventional ‘ medical care’ as indicated above in the article, law makers will then decide they need to also “expand” regulation of them as medicines/drugs. Seems to me that they are playing coy by innocently inching their way toward more regulation in an effort to avoid too much public backlash and that once again, we Americans will wake up one day realizing that have been duped into buying another one of their ‘ good intentions’. Always remember that the ‘ Road to hell is always paved with good intentions”.

       0 likes

  3. James says:

    The government screws up everything it touches . Don’t trust them! Just another back door move to control what supplements we can take.

       4 likes

    • sher says:

      I have to agree with James. It seems wonderful that the HSA’s might help with such an integral part in an actual healthy food source, but I’ve yet to see, in this day and age, the gov’t do something like this for a GOOD reason! I hope it is true, that there is no dual reason, but I cannot jump on board to ask for support, until I see more. Any health plan that would sneak in a real estate issue, is not one I trust, so this may be another come-on.

         0 likes

  4. Donna says:

    Right now supplements are allowed under flex and HSA plans with a note from your medical doctor. Having experience with matters such as these I am cautious to have the government give ‘permission’ for something as history proves that when the government ‘allows’ something it soon starts to regulate it under the pretense of trying to ‘protect us’. In this case we may be asking for more trouble by asking the government to ‘allow’ supplements without a note from your medical doctor. We can use the HSA and flex dollars right now for supplements as long as we have a note from our medical doctor. I would like to keep the use of my supplements as free from regulation as possible.

       3 likes

  5. Kat says:

    I agree with Tia. Everything uncle Sam touches eventually turns against us, even though it seems beneficial at the beginning. I have a truly bad, bad feeling about this one.

       1 likes

  6. Jeff Evenson says:

    I hope the expansion of “medical care” to include dietary supplements is not the first step in having dietary supplements classified as a medicine, which therefore becomes a regulated product.

       4 likes

  7. Mandi says:

    I am 68 years old. People tell me I look 20 years younger. I have no health issues. I am not on any medication. I have been taking suppliments since I’m 20 years old. That’s alot of money spent, but it’s also a lot of money saved on doctor bills. It would be nice if insurance companies would recognize the fact that money spent on suppliments, is money saved on disease and health issues.

       18 likes

  8. Carolyn says:

    This sounds great, but my first thought was that it may give the prescription drug companies more reason to target supplements as needing more regulation.

       2 likes

  9. Peg Wanie says:

    Just wondering if there is any worry with this bill defining supplements under “Medical care”. Sounds to me like this definition, it it becomes official, could be used to then regulate these same supplements.

       4 likes

  10. Tia says:

    I hope this isn’t a ruse to leave a back door open for regulating and therefore controlling, natural supplements.

       7 likes

    • renee says:

      it is definitely a way to identify who is using supplements, and which supplements. The price of not submitting for health account reimbursement is a bit of privacy…

         1 likes

    • Bill says:

      That’s exactly what it id……..

         0 likes

    • bodiddley says:

      yeah, there seems to be enough special interest to shoot ant good and perfect thing down these days! will be tune in to see !

         1 likes

  11. dale says:

    would love more info

       4 likes

  12. Anne McGuire says:

    I was thrilled to learn that Orrin Hatch and three colleagues (in the Senate) and Erick Paulsen (in the House) 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). Finally a constructive step towards health prevention!

    My family and I work hard to maintain our health naturally. One of the cornerstones of an integrative approach to health is the use of nutritional supplements, and studies show that we as a nation can help reduce healthcare spending if consumers take a preventive approach to health using supplements.

    The Family and Retirement Health Investment Act of 2013 is important legislation because so many natural health advocates depend on Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts — they can be used for integrative doctor visits and treatments not covered by conventional insurance. Expanding HSAs to include supplements will increase consumer access and choice, not to mention overall consumer health.

    HSA plans themselves 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. These savings are significant, given the tremendous costs of our current health care system model.

    Allowing these plans to pay for nutritional supplements is an important and very positive step toward helping your constituents stay healthy and happy. Please vote YES on the Family and Retirement Health Investment Act of 2013!

       9 likes

  13. William G Elmore says:

    Please support this legislation. Allow supplements to qualify as a write off just like medicine for those who do not have access to these type of accounts. Example would be senior citizens on medicare.

       3 likes

  14. Renfreu Neff says:

    This is a good step forward; Now what about acupuncture & shiatzu treatments?

       4 likes

  15. barbra morman says:

    thank you for all you do for us. I appreciate you very much.

       2 likes

  16. Jean says:

    Hey that is a prettty good thing we could use in Canada. Don’t know about anything like that around here. And by the way you friends in this good US of A keep on fighting cause when USA sneezes Canada catches a cold. May all you get full freedom to choice of foods and health choices….to bad I can’t vote in USA…would be one more vote to yours

       5 likes

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