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A New Bill Would Include Nutritional Supplements in Health Savings Accounts

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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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