Help Us Rescue Two Health Savings Programs that We Really Need—Action Alert!

May 10, 2011
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HSA and FSAThese 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.

TO SEND YOUR MESSAGE TO CONGRESS

Click THIS LINK to go to the Action Alert page. Once there, fill out the form with your name and address, etc., and customize your letter. We have a suggested message for you, but please feel free to add your own comments to the letter.

We’d also love to hear your comments about this article—just add your thoughts below—but remember that the messages below are only seen by our ANH-USA readers and not Congress, the FDA, etc.

20 Responses to “Help Us Rescue Two Health Savings Programs that We Really Need—Action Alert!”

  1. Jill Shah says:

    This is a terrific article. We are currently in the process of launching a new feature on Jill’s List which will help consumers understand WHICH CAM services are covered by FSAs and HSAs and what they need to do in order to submit these for coverage (ie. when to get a letter of medical necessity.) Companies will be deploying this feature internally to help guide their employees on CAM options and what can be paid for with FSA and HSAs.

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  2. Hi KevinI was wondering if I were to collect some natural spring water how long would it keep for before it would spoilMany thanks Steve

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  3. Thomas Kalihi says:

    I firmly believe that these other essential health services listed are certainly a virable way to preserve our health lifestyle in our USA.

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  4. kerry Fry says:

    Thank-you very much for this information and the opportunity to respond. This has been a concern for my husband and myself. We are both self imployed, I work in the alternative health business and we use herbals and nutients rather than drugs. We also pay for our own health insurence and have a HSA. We were very dissapointed in having what we can purchase with that savings account cut down. We would also like to be able to handle the money ourselves and not have to pay a bank a service fee to hang onto our money. I think we are smart enough to keep track of what we spend on medical and health related items.

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  5. JC says:

    Thank you for pointing this important information out. I hope it accomplishes something. I personally have benefitted greatly from a program of vitamins/supplements, as I have not contracted any communicable diseases like colds or flus for more than 22 years. This is certainly an examle of improvement in health and avoidance of costs of lost productivity/worktime.

    I don’t think our soil has been able to support us for a long time at the nutrient level it should, so we need supplements of concentrated nutrients. It would be wise to make these costs deductible, since they are helping our health in a way that current Western-trained doctors cannot. I remember reading somewhere that years ago the Chinese paid their doctors while they were healthy, but stopped paying them when they fell ill. I would rather pay for vitamins/supplements and live a healthier life — with the consequence of not having to pay any doctors at all!!

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  6. Barbara Murphy says:

    Do the FSA’s and and/or HSA’s cover payments to alternative practitioners such as chiropractors and accupuncturists who are not currently covered under healthcare policies?

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  7. Sharon Karson says:

    I believe that in addition to the amendments allowing HSA’s + higher deductables, the low deductible policies should be required to offer a CAM option to those who choose it.

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  8. Eileen says:

    You have missed a key problem. You want the continuation of high deductible insurance plans for people with an HSA. I have a high deductible and want an HSA but do not have one because my insurance company’s plan with one costs $1,000/year more. Unless there is something in the new regulations to address this, I can only have an HSA if I buy a plan offering one. We should all have a high deductible option and should then all be allowed to have an HSA. It should not be left to, or dependent on the whim of the insurance companies.

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    • handsoffmyhealth says:

      You have nailed the problem with ANH’s analysis. Nobody can have an HSA without a high deductible insurance plan. The intention of HSA’s as stated were to bridge the gap left by the high deductible. Additionally, they were intended to be a savings plan, but the interest rate is virtually nonexistent and most don’t “rollover”.
      Setting up HSA’s more like IRA’s, (instead of medical insurance and allowing a Hospitalization policy in addition) withan upper limit towards $10k, and no withdrawal penalties but higher yields and no restrictions on expenditures for OTC and vitamins, chiropratic, naturopathic, accupuncture, herbalists, excercise programs and alternative treatments would go a long way towards better medical choices.
      I will not use any service allowed or provided by insurance companies. I will take no FDA approved drug nor will I ever voluntarily subject myself to allopathic medicine esp chemotherapy, radiation, most surgeries. I can only use accident insurance, non vehicle related (vehicle accidents are covered by my auto policy up to 300k), but Obamacare will not allow me to buy such a product. I am forced onto Medicare, which I will not use voluntarily. I will not under current law be allowed to have an HSA.

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  9. judy wisboro says:

    Dear House and Senate Leaders:
    It has come to my attention that certain medical procedures are not being covered
    by private insurers nor health maintenance organizations and that a higher
    deductible and a slight word changing in the existing law would include this
    medical treatment. We have to have this attitude leave no individual or their family
    member behind in the medical care of all constituents in all 50 states.
    Evidently FSA and HSA accounts will not cover certain natural supplements
    which may be vital to some medical treatments either surgical or non invasive surgery.
    Please change this law to include these accounts.

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  10. Alice Ali says:

    They 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.

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  11. gus gomez says:

    Government should be never be in the business of limiting the choices of free thinking Americans.

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  12. mary jane holden says:

    Pleaes 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. shame on you if you don’t.

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  13. Sandra says:

    I had to take down my Support ane Wellness Education Website for Cancer Patients because Mannatech ordered me to cease and desist for being out of compliance and this was the response
    to the passage of Free Speech About Science Act 2011 HR 1364 because of fear or retailiation form the allopathic medican associations pushing the FDA and the FTC and Attorney General’s of States……how sad this really is…..and I asked Senator Kennedy to help place in the National Health Care Plan or through a tax deduction for CAM and nutrients to defeat cancer because so many families have a double whammy expense and challenge in the most stressful time in a person’s life and on the family. Families need a way to pay for alternative medicine modalities equally, along with conventional insurance plans, especially with Human Genome Project, The Angeogenesis Foundation, and The National Cancer Institute for phytochemicals found naturally in foods opening a new door in the battle with cancer. Most clinic are out of America because of FDA guidlines and the use of nutrients along with chemotherapy to help detoxify….the cost is great, too. I am for natural supplements that the body recognizes and helps support the body to heal it’s self by building, maintaining, and repair and protecting the cells and tissues in the body.

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  14. deborah says:

    Sorry, I cannot help you with this. I consider both bills highway robbery. Either high deductibles or high monthly payments help no one. I am for some kind of socialized medicine. Everyone deserves good health care, not just those who can afford health insurance of which I am one!

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  15. Marcia Kirschbaum says:

    Sorry, I was on the wrong page on that send – obviously I was forwarding the request for support on the bill and just wasn’t careful

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  16. charley says:

    WHY CANT WE ALL HAVE HSA’S EVEN WITHOUT A HIGH DED HEALTH POLICY OR AN EMPLOYEE STATUS?

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    • Donald Williams says:

      You can thank George W for the high deductible plans, however, it is not necessary to be an employee to get an HSA, they are available on individual health plans.

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  17. Bev Stone says:

    It would be better to see uses for HSAs expanded, not curtailed. They should cover vitamins and anything one uses to maintain optimum health.

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  18. Aryn Gabai says:

    Alternative health services, such as chiropractic, naturopathy, acupuncture and other wellbeing driven approaches, as still markedly excluded from this inclusion. It is silly and ridiculous to think that MEDICAL doctors are the only ones in the country let alone the world who know what to do about someone’s health, especially given that the AMA reports that medicine kills over 300,000 people in the USA per year. How can we incorporate these immensely valuable health services to this bill as well?

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