Health Choices Coalition Urges Congress to Reverse Over-the-Counter Medicine Restrictions on Flexible Spending Arrangements

Letters sent to congressional leadership

Washington, D.C. (May 11, 2011)—Yesterday, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) and other members of the Health Choices Coalition sent a letter to select members of Congress urging repeal of the requirement that prevents consumers from using their flexible spending arrangements (FSAs) to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) medicines without first getting a doctor’s prescription.

“This issue is about empowering millions of American consumers to cost-effectively manage their families’ healthcare needs,” said CHPA Vice President of Government Affairs Bill Head.  “The availability of OTC medicines through an employer-sponsored FSA provides valuable cost-savings to consumers, increases worker productivity, and encourages smart healthcare decisions by both employers and employees — all of which are consistent with the goals of healthcare reform.”

Prior to January, OTC medicines were eligible for reimbursement under FSAs and other tax-preferred savings accounts.  An estimated 19 million working American families purchased these cost-effective medications through their FSAs.

“Unfortunately the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act included a provision that limits coverage of OTC medicines.  Instead of saving consumers money and encouraging them to proactively address their health needs when they can and should, this provision will increase costs to the healthcare system and place a new burden on already over-burdened physician offices,” said Director of Government Relations for the American Osteopathic Association Shawn Martin.

Members of the Health Choices Coalition are urging Congress to take action in order to allow consumers to use their FSAs for OTC medicines. “We believe this provision has resulted in unintended consequences for healthcare providers and patients, “said National Association of Chain Drug Stores Vice President of Federal Government Affairs Paul Kelly.  “We are respectfully asking that Congress takes action to lift the restrictions on tax-preferred savings accounts for OTC medicines in order to increase cost efficiencies in the healthcare system and give consumers control of their healthcare.”

About the Health Choices Coalition: The Health Choices Coalition represents physicians, consumers, retailers, manufacturers, pharmacies, pharmacists, patients, pharmacy benefit managers, small businesses, and employers in an effort to stop the unintended consequences resulting from the restrictions placed on tax-preferred accounts reimbursing for over-the-counter (OTC) medications without a doctor’s prescription. Coalition members who signed onto the letter to members of Congress include Aetna, America’s Health Insurance Plans, American Academy of Dermatology Association, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, American Osteopathic Association, American Society for Association Executives, Bayer HealthCare Consumer Care, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Consumer Healthcare Products Association, CVS Caremark, Food Marketing Institute, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, National Association of Manufacturers, National Community Pharmacists Association, National Federation of Independent Business, National Grocers Association, Prime Therapeutics, Retail Industry Leaders Association, Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Wellpoint.

Editor's Note: The letter sent to members of the U.S. House of Representatives is available here and the letter sent to members of the U.S. Senate is available here.

Contacts: Elizabeth Funderburk and Katie Bryan, 202.429.9260

CHPA is the 130-year-old-trade association representing U.S. manufacturers and distributors of over-the-counter medicines and nutritional supplements.