Alexandria, Va. - June 8, 2012
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R.436, the Protect Medical Innovation Act of 2012, which includes a repeal of an Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision that prohibits using funds from flexible health spending accounts (FSA) and health savings accounts (HSAs) to buy over-the-counter (OTC) drugs without a prescription. The OTC repeal provision had been previously introduced by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS). The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) is part of the broad and diverse Health Care Choices Coalition that sent a letter to the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee leadership expressing support for the repeal as the bill was being considered. The policy went into effect Jan. 1, 2011 and the coalition has opposed it from the start.
"We commend the U.S. House of Representatives for voting to restore patients' ability to purchase OTC medications through their FSAs and HSAs without the inconvenience of first getting a prescription from a doctor's office," said NCPA CEO, B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA. "These commonplace and inexpensive medications provide significant relief from pain, allergies and other ailments and may help avert the need for more expensive medical treatment. For the sake of patients we need to return to that dynamic."
The coalition letter provides many facts to substantiate why Congress needs to rescind the current policy. For example, "OTC medicines contribute a total of $102 billion each year in savings and cost avoidance in the healthcare system." The reason the demand for change has such strong support is also found in the number of people affected by the onerous requirement, because about 19 million working Americans rely upon the voluntary contributions of pre-tax dollars for FSAs and HSAs to, "help meet their basic healthcare needs, including the purchase of safe, affordable OTC medicines." As further proof of why the policy is so problematic the letter notes that, "A 2010 survey found that more than 90 percent of Americans prefer to seek treatment with OTCs before seeing a healthcare provider. At the same time, nearly 90 percent of the physicians and pharmacists surveyed recommend that patients self-treat with OTC medicines prior to seeing a doctor."
The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA®) represents the interests of America's community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 23,000 independent community pharmacies. Together they represent a $93 billion health care marketplace, dispense nearly 40% of all retail prescriptions, and employ more than 315,000 people, including 62,400 pharmacists. Independent community pharmacists are readily accessible medication experts who can help lower health care spending. They are committed to maximizing the appropriate use of lower-cost generic drugs and reducing the estimated $290 billion that is wasted annually by improper medication use. To learn more go to www.ncpanet.org or read NCPA's blog, The Dose, at http://ncpanet.wordpress.com.
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