A survey conducted last month by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association revealed that 63.2 percent of consumers consider the high cost of treatment as their biggest concern when it comes to healthcare and medical treatment options. Those rising costs – now expected to reach $4.8 trillion in the U.S. alone – can impact how engaged consumers are in the day-to-day management of their own healthcare. Higher premiums, co-pays, and out-of-pocket expenses can directly affect the choices consumers make in self-care, an increasingly important aspect of the healthcare ecosystem.
We have policy tools available to help curb these costs. For example, a new bipartisan bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.), and in the Senate by Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), would repeal the provision of the Affordable Care Act 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 medicines. Since the ACA provisions took effect in 2011, the estimated 45 million Americans who hold tax-preferred savings accounts, including HSAs and FSAs, must obtain a prescription for over-the-counter medicines in order to get those costs reimbursed through their savings accounts. Consumers should have the right to use their set-aside HSA/FSA dollars to purchase commonly used medicines without the additional time and cost of unnecessary doctor visits, just like they can for all other healthcare expenses.
This legislation – the Restoring Access to Medication Act of 2015 (S. 709/H.R. 1270) – is a strong example of a commonsense policy change that addresses rising consumer concerns. In fact, a 2014 Nielsen study notes that 74 percent of U.S. adults are in favor of a change in the law that would allow individuals to once again use pre-tax funds to purchase OTC products.
With consumer cost concerns at top of our minds, it’s important to remember that good, preventative self-care and early treatment not only improves our health, it saves money as well. OTC medicines allow consumers to have active roles in taking better care of themselves, which leads to healthier lifestyles and reduces the need for professional medical care. Self care with OTCs can greatly alter treatment for consumers, and eliminate the need for unnecessary medical attention. Enabling that care by encouraging the passage of the Restoring Access to Medication Act is a key step forward in reducing waste in healthcare waste and healthcare spending.
Scott Melville is the president and CEO of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA).