The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

August SHOULD be Healthcare Month!

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


In June, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) he wanted to spend August on healthcare.  The Council for Citizens against Government Waste (CCAGW) agrees!

The Senate could start by voting on two bills that would make significant changes to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).  HSAs operate like Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and are always combined with a high deductible health plan.  Consumers can contribute funds tax free and build up value over time.  HSAs allow people to pay for qualified medical expenses, such as doctor visits, x-rays, and prescription drugs, tax free.  HSAs bring market forces to healthcare, which help to bring down costs, improve quality, and have become very popular.  According to America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade association for health insurers, in 2016, there were 20.2 million HSA enrollees.  That is more people than have ever enrolled annually in a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, exchange. 

The bills, H.R. 6199, the Restoring Access to Medication and Modernizing Health Savings Accounts Act of 2018, and H.R. 6311, the Increasing Access to Lower Premium Plans and Expanding Health Savings Accounts Act of 2018, will expand the use of and modernize HSAs.  They will help to lower insurance premiums, empower and provide consumers with more choices in purchasing healthcare products, and reduce taxes for American families.  Both bills have already passed the House of Representatives with bi-partisan support.

Here are some important policy changes the bills would make:

  • Once again, HSAs could be used to purchase over-the-counter medicines, a reversal of the restriction ACA placed on the accounts;
  • Senior citizens, who are enrolled in Medicare Part A, could continue to contribute to an HSA through their employer-sponsored plan;
  • Feminine hygiene products would be, for the first time, a qualified medical expense within a HSA;
  • Certain fees with direct primary care doctors would become a qualified medical expense under a HSA;
  • Certain fitness and sport expenses would be treated as qualified medical expense, up to a limited amount, to encourage exercise and improvement of personal health;
  • Funds in flexible savings accounts (FSAs) could be rolled over, thus changing the “use it or lose it” requirement that encourages unnecessary spending;
  • Anyone would be allowed to purchase a lower cost, catastrophic health insurance plan (currently restricted to 30 years and younger thanks to ACA); and
  • Permit all catastrophic and Bronze plans with high-deductibles eligible for an HSA.

 

These are common sense solutions and CCAGW thinks senators should support these bills.  We hope you do too.

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