A cost-analysis by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association found 50 million unnecessary visits to doctors could be eliminated and billions saved if the health reform law’s over-the-counter (OTC) drug restrictions were lifted.
Because of the new restrictions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as of Jan. 1, 2011, expenses for OTC drugs that aren’t prescribed by a doctor (except insulin) can’t be reimbursed using funds from these plans:
- Flexible spending arrangements (FSAs)
- Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs)
- Health savings accounts (HSAs), and
- Archer medical savings accounts (MSAs).
Critics say the new restrictions will result in a dramatic increase in the amount of patients seeking prescriptions for medicines already available over the counter, which in turn will drive up healthcare costs by increasing office visits.
As a result, there’s even been a major push in Congress to get those OTC restrictions thrown out. Six pieces of legislation have already been introduced between the House and Senate, which would repeal the reform law’s OTC rules.
Some of the bills would have even larger implications for consumer-directed healthcare accounts.
- The Patients’ Freedom to Choose Act — which has been introduced in the House and has 119 cosponsors — would repeal the restrictions on OTC medications and the planned $2,500 cap on FSA contributions.
- The Family and Retirement Health Investment Act of 2011 — which has 40 cosponsors in the House — would repeal the OTC restrictions, expand the use of FSAs and HSAs for healthcare retainer fees and Medicare hospital plan beneficiaries, and allow a rollover of $500 in FSAs.