NACDS expresses support of The Patients' Freedom to Choose Act of 2011

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Companion legislation, which seeks to change a provision in the healthcare-reform law and permit Americans to use their flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts to buy over-the-counter medications without a prescription, has the support of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

Known as The Patients' Freedom to Choose Act of 2011 — introduced by Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas — the bill seeks to change a provision in the healthcare-reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and permit Americans to use their FSAs and HSAs to purchase OTC medications without a prescription.

Currently under the law, patients first must receive a prescription for an OTC medication before they can be reimbursed from their pre-taxed FSA or HSA.

"By restoring consumers' ability to use FSAs and HSAs for [OTC] products, these bills will help ensure that Americans can continue to conveniently utilize their local pharmacies for cost-saving OTCs," stated NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson.

"An estimated 35 million working Americans rely on voluntary contributions of pre-tax dollars to FSAs to help meet their basic healthcare needs," Anderson added. "Prohibiting the use of FSA funds to purchase these medicines, or requiring a prescription or other documentation from a doctor, limits access and eliminates the cost efficiencies associated with these medicines."

In an incremental victory for NACDS and for allied voices on this issue, the Internal Revenue Service in late December 2010 announced that FSA debit cards would be allowed to be used for OTC medications for which patients have a prescription. Previously, the IRS had indicated that such debit cards would not be permitted for use in purchasing medication affected by the new policy, even if a consumer had obtained a prescription for the medications. The legislation introduced by Sen. Hutchison and Rep. Paulsen, however, would provide a more comprehensive remedy to this issue, the NACDS stated.

"We appreciate the leadership and commitment of Rep. Paulsen and Sen. Hutchison in introducing their companion bills," Anderson stated.