CRN, NPA support bill to allow health savings dollars to be used for supplements

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock / amedved
© iStock / amedved

Related tags: Flexible spending account

The latest version of the proposed Health Savings Act would allow consumers to use their tax-free health savings account dollars to pay for dietary supplements as well as drugs, doctor visits and other health services.

The act has been introduced more than once, but past iterations have included language that would have mandated the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  That language is omitted from the current version of the bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT, and Rep Eric Paulsen, R-MN.  Omission of that language, which is a non-starter for Democratic lawmakers, might improve the current bill’s chance of passage over earlier versions.

Mike Green, senior vice president of government relations for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said the pace of activity in the new Congress this year has been almost unprecedented in his experience.  With a number of new lawmakers, and an uncertain atmosphere with the stream of executive orders coming from the White House and a much-livelier than usual round of cabinet appointment approval hearings, Green said it’s a legislative culture in ferment, which makes substantive change more possible.

A way forward reveals itself

“We have spent the past 10 or 12 years supporting some version of the health savings accounts legislation,” ​Greene said. “This is the third introduction of the HSA by Sen. Hatch and Rep. Paulsen. The bills have a long way to go and they have garnered some support. I think this is the first time we have been talking about this that we can see a way forward.”

“The Natural Products Association is committed to working with Congress and the Trump Administration to save costs for patients and taxpayers who choose to supplement their diets and healthy lifestyles,”​ said Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., CEO and executive director of NPA.  “Giving people more avenues and opportunities to save money in preventative health care costs is a common sense solution. Using our collaborative grassroots efforts is the best way to let Congress know we expect that from them.”

Greene said that at the beginning of the process year ago of trying to get some sort of coverage of  health care dollars for dietary supplements, the idea was to tightly define what a supplement is for the purposes of legislation.  The idea in part was to deflect criticism that funds from Health Savings Accounts or Flexible Spending Accounts could be used to pay for a broad range of products, some highly evidenced-based, other less so. ​Greene said the current iteration of the HSA takes the opposite approach.

“Among our original goals was to look at something very narrow. We first thought this should be applied only to supplements with full or qualified health claims associated with them. The current legislation defines supplements very broadly, which we think makes sense from a negotiations standpoint. You always want to start broad and then later you can go narrow,”​ he said.

“The more than 170 million Americans taking supplements annually should have the ability to use pre-tax dollars to purchase their supplements, and this legislation would accomplish just that, further encouraging consumers to make cost-effective healthcare decisions,”​ Greene said.

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