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NACDS, NCPA back legislation to restore FSA use for O-T-Cs.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association have endorsed the Restoring Access to Medication Act (S. 1647), which would allow consumers to buy over-the-counter medicines through flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) without a doctor's prescription.

NACDS and NCPA said they are members of the Health Choices Coalition, which has sent a letter of endorsement to the bill's leading sponsors, Sens. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) and Mary Landrieu (D., La.). The coalition's participants also include groups representing consumers, physicians, health insurance plans and employers.

Specifically, S. 1647 aims to repeal section 9003 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and restore the ability of people with FSAs, HSAs and similar accounts to use those pretax funds to purchase O-T-C drugs without a prescription. Before January 1, 2011, consumers were able to use medical savings account funds to buy O-T-Cs.

"The goal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was to expand access to affordable care. Unfortunately, the provision that limits coverage of O-T-C medicines will in stead increase costs to the health care system and place new administrative burdens on already overburdened physician offices," the coalition's letter to Roberts and Landrieu said.

"Millions of American families rely on flexible spending arrangements and other tax-preferred accounts to purchase these cost-effective medications," the coalition explained. "This issue is critically important to the estimated 19 million working Americans who rely on voluntary contributions of pretax dollars to FSAs to help meet their basic health care needs, including the purchase of safe, affordable O-T-C medicines."

Citing a Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) survey, the coalition noted in the letter that over 90% of Americans prefer to seek treatment with O-T-Cs before seeing a health care provider. Also, about 90% of physicians and pharmacists polled recommend that patients self-treat with O-T-C medicines before seeing a doctor.

"We believe this restriction on the use of tax-preferred accounts for the purchase of O-T-C medicines has resulted in unintended consequences to both physicians and patients," the coalition stated.

S. 1647 is a companion bill to House legislation (H.R. 2835) introduced in July by Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R., Kan.) and John Barrow (D., Ga.). Both NACDS and NCPA have supported similar bills that were introduced in previous sessions of Congress but weren't enacted.

"Thanks to the leadership of Sens. Roberts and Landrieu, there is now bipartisan, bicameral support for a change to the PPACA that would restore consumers' rights to spend their FSA and HSA dollars on any medicine they need," stated Scott Melville, CHPA president and chief executive officer. "When the president and leaders of both parties sit down to negotiate improvements to the PPACA, we believe this commonsense legislation should be at the top of their list."

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Title Annotation:RX/Government
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Nov 25, 2013
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