CHPA Commends Effort to Expand Efficient, Self-Healthcare Options by Reinstating OTC Eligibility Under Flexible Spending Arrange

Move will help working Americans make medical expenses more affordable

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) strongly supports the bipartisan and bicameral legislation introduced today by Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Representative Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), and Representative Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.).  This legislation, the Restoring Access to Medication Act (S.1368/H.R. 2529), would repeal the requirement that prevents consumers from using their flexible spending arrangements (FSAs) to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) medicines without first getting a prescription.

"Over-the-counter medicines are often a first line of defense against ailments and injuries and should be treated as medically reimbursable healthcare therapies, just like prescription medicines,"  said CHPA President and  CEO Scott Melville. "We urge Congress to reinstate a benefit that so many American families use to make medical expenses more affordable."

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. However, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148) required consumers to obtain a prescription from their physician in order for OTC medicines to be eligible for FSA reimbursement.

"Removing OTC medicines from FSA eligibility contradicts the long standing commitment of both parties to give hard working Americans better access to affordable solutions for staying healthy," noted Melville.

According to a recent survey of consumers and primary care physicians, sponsored by CHPA, primary care physicians estimated on average that 10 percent or more of visits to their offices were unnecessary and could have been avoided by self-management of healthcare, including the use of OTC medicines for minor ailments. In fact, according to the associated cost-savings study, $5.2 billion could be saved by consumers and taxpayers annually, if only half of the unnecessary visits were avoided by greater self-management of healthcare, including the use of OTC medicines.

"Over-the-counter medicines empower consumers to practice smart self-care, efficiently and cost-effectively," said Melville. "It's part of our health system that works well and effective health reform should build on what's working."

Editor's note: Health Choices Coalition letters to Senate  and House sponsors are available online.

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

The Your Health At Hand survey, conducted by Strategy One  from November 5–15, 2010, involved 1,000 U.S. consumers aged 18 and over with a margin-of-error of +/- 3.1%, and 500 U.S. practicing physicians (specializing in primary care, internal medicine or pediatrics) with a margin-of-error of +/- 4.9%. The survey was sponsored by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

SOURCE Consumer Healthcare Products Association