The Pulse of Natural Health Newsletter

Stay informed about what is hot in Washington and the states about natural health

Natural Products Championed in Congress

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Tell your legislators that we need legislation that will increase consumer access to natural products. Action Alert!

In the last Congress, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) 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, did 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. Similar legislation was introduced in 2011 and 2013.

As of right now, no bills have been introduced in the new Congress to expand HSAs and FSAs to include dietary supplements. Now is the time to encourage your members of Congress to do so. 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 (at least, according to the Government Accountability Office’s report, so the number may well be higher), 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 to virtually eliminate deductibles.

As we now know, the reverse occurred: deductibles have soared, so much so that most policyholders 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 the 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 legislators and ask them to support this proposal. Remind them that a healthy diet with nutritional supplements is a cornerstone 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!

 

Other articles in this week’s Pulse of Natural Health:

Feds Tighten Grip on US Medicine

When is a GMO not a GMO?

Another Alzheimer’s Drug a Huge Flop

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  • Carol Carlson

    Isn’t there a bill pending in Congress, left over from Pres. Obama’s administration, that would necessitate a doctor’s Rx for buying supplements? Supplements were supposed to be regulated by the FDA, and they were supposed to be regarded as “drugs.” I remember reading something about that last year.

  • kibitzer3

    An excellent initiative. Thanks for the heads-up.

  • Bruce Stewart

    An HSA costs me less money so I reward my employees who opt for it with a larger company payment on their insurance to match what I pay on conventional plans.