Alexandria, Va., November 7, 2013 - New Senate legislation that would restore consumers' freedom to use pre-tax dollars from flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) medicines without first seeing a doctor has been endorsed by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).
The Restoring Access to Medication Act (S. 1647) was recently introduced by U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). NACDS and NCPA are part of the Health Choices Coalition, which sent a letter of endorsement to the bill's leading sponsors. The coalition's members also include organizations representing consumers, physicians, health insurance plans and employers.
"Consumers depend on OTC medicines as a first line of defense for their families' health care needs," the coalition wrote. "OTC medicines provide Americans with effective, affordable, convenient, and accessible means to address their health care needs. These medicines save consumers billions of dollars annually through reducing unnecessary doctors' visits, less time lost from work, and the cost advantage of OTC medicines."
The Affordable Care Act included a provision requiring patients to see a physician and obtain a prescription for an OTC, in order to pay for such medications using pre-tax dollars from a FSA or HSA. The change has inconvenienced patients and prompted complaints from some physicians and patients to community pharmacists. NACDS has also long-supported this legislation.
In its letter, the Health Choices Coalition added, "We believe this restriction on the use of tax-preferred accounts for the purchase of OTC medicines has resulted in unintended consequences to both physicians and patients. We thank you for your efforts to restore the ability to pay for OTC medicines with tax-preferred account funds without the need for a prescription. We remain committed to working with you and others in Congress to advance this legislation that will increase cost efficiencies in the health care system and give consumers control of their health care choices."
The Senate bill mirrors H.R. 2835, introduced earlier this year by U.S. Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) and John Barrow (D-Ga.). Similar legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) represents traditional drug stores, supermarkets, and mass merchants with pharmacies—from regional chains with four stores to national companies. Chains operate more than 41,000 pharmacies and employ more than 3.8 million employees, including 132,000 pharmacists. They fill over 2.7 billion prescriptions annually, which is more than 72 percent of annual prescriptions in the United States. The total economic impact of all retail stores with pharmacies transcends their over $1 trillion in annual sales. Every $1 spent in these stores creates a ripple effect of $1.81 in other industries, for a total economic impact of $1.81 trillion, equal to 12 percent of GDP. For more information about NACDS, visit http://www.nacds.org/.
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 an $88.7 billion health care marketplace, dispense nearly 40% of all retail prescriptions, and employ more than 300,000 individuals, including over 62,000 pharmacists. To learn more go to www.ncpanet.org or read NCPA's blog, The Dose, at http://ncpanet.wordpress.com/.
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