CHPA applauds Senate introduction of Restoring Access to Medication Act

Bill would ensure consumers are not penalized by PPACA’s “medicine cabinet tax”

Washington, D.C. (November 5, 2013) – The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) is pleased to lend its support for the Restoring Access to Medication Act (S. 1647) introduced by U. S. Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.). This bipartisan legislation is the Senate companion bill to the bill previously introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and John Barrow (D-GA). The Restoring Access to Medication Act would repeal a requirement enacted into law as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010 that requires consumers to obtain a prescription in order to utilize their flexible spending arrangements (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.

“We are encouraged by the Administration’s recent decision to permit FSA participants to roll over up to $500 from one year to the next, but we feel that more needs to be done to ensure that FSA and HSA users are not penalized by the medicine cabinet tax,” CHPA President and CEO Scott Melville said. “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. 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.”

OTC medicines are FDA-regulated pharmaceuticals and are often a first line of defense against many common ailments and injuries and should be treated as medically reimbursable healthcare therapies just like prescription medicines and other healthcare products.

On average, physicians say about 10 percent of office visits result from minor ailments which could be self-managed by patients, including by the use of OTC medicines. This amounts to over 40 million appointments each year that could be avoided with self-care.

The broad availability of OTC medicines, 24/7, in a wide range of retail outlets including pharmacies, supermarkets, and convenience stores provides tremendous benefit to both consumers and the U.S. healthcare system.  A January 2012 study by Booz & Company estimated that OTCs provide $102 billion dollars in savings to our nation’s healthcare system every year.  These benefits are realized through reduced doctor visits accounting for $77 billion of those savings and reduced drug costs accounting for $25 billion. 

The bill is supported by the Health Choices Coalition (HCC), which 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 PPACA restriction on OTCs. The HCC recently sent a letter in support of this legislation to the sponsors.

“Millions of American families have previously relied on flexible spending accounts and other tax-preferred arrangements to purchase affordable and convenient over the counter medication,” said Bruce Josten, executive vice president for Government Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce a member of the HCC. “Passing this bill is critically important to the estimated 19 million working Americans who rely on voluntary contributions of pre-tax dollars to FSAs to help meet their basic health care needs, including the purchase of safe, affordable OTC medicines.”

Contact: Jenni Terry, 202.429.9260 


CHPA is the 132-year-old trade association representing U.S. manufacturers and distributors of over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements.