These programs help pay for CAM treatments not covered by regular insurance. A new bill restores them—but further amendment is needed. Help Congress get this right!
The House bill, HR 605, and its companion bill in the Senate, S 312, known as the Patients’ Freedom to Choose Act, address two savings programs that are vitally important to consumers—and especially natural health consumers. The healthcare reform act indirectly gutted these programs, but this bill—if the right amendments were offered—could not only save them, but make them really cost-effective as well.
- Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSAs) allow employees to be reimbursed for medical expenses. FSAs are usually funded through voluntary salary reduction agreements with one’s employer. No employment or federal income taxes are deducted from the employee’s contribution, and the employer may also contribute.
- Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are savings accounts owned by the individual, and the funds contributed to an account are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit. Unlike an FSA, funds roll over and accumulate year to year if not spent.
Under current law, there is no cap on contributions made to FSAs. The healthcare reform act capped contributions to FSAs at $2500. This new bill repeals those limitations.
Currently, one can buy over-the-counter non-prescription drugs with FSA and HSA funds, whereas under the healthcare reform act, the funds can only be used for for a medicine or drug if it is prescribed or is insulin. This new bill repeals that limitation for both FSAs and HSAs.
It’s great that the bill was introduced before the new healthcare reform act provisions went into effect. HSAs and FSAs are important for natural health advocates—they help pay for complementary and alternative medical (CAM) treatments not covered by conventional health insurance. It should be up to individual consumers to decide how much they will contribute and how they will use their accounts.
One problem—and it is a big one—is that the healthcare reform act essentially outlaws insurance companies offering plans with high deductibles in the future. Low-deductible plans are much more expensive, and most of them do not cover any CAM-related treatments—so we’ll be forced to pay for our own integrative healthcare on top of the mandatory purchase of an insurance policy that excludes integrative treatment. HSAs are a wonderful way to bridge that gap—but they really only make economic sense for most people if we still have high-deductible policies that don’t cost us so much money.
So we are asking for an amendment that would allow insurance companies to continue to offer high-deductible policies to individuals who own an HSA. This is tremendously important to really make HSAs and FSAs work as they were originally intended.
Another concern: even prior to healthcare reform, one could not use FSAs or HSA to pay for vitamins and supplements. ANH-USA believes the bill should also contain explicit language to include supplements as part of allowable medical expenses for both FSAs and HSAs, and we are also asking Congress to offer an amendment to the bill to do just that. A truly effective national healthcare system must be preventive as well as corrective, and dietary supplements should absolutely be included in any healthcare spending account
Please contact your representative and senators today, and ask them to offer an amendment to (a) allow high-deductible insurance policies for people who have an HSA, and (b) make sure supplements are allowable expenses for both HSAs and FSAs.
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