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Johanns, Paulsen Introduce Legislation Restoring Families' Health Care Flexibility, Freedom

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) today introduced the Family Health Care Flexibility Act to repeal restrictions placed on health savings accounts (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA) by the President's health care law. A $2,500 FSA contribution cap went into effect this year and another provision of the law already in effect prohibits HSA and FSA participants from using their own account dollars to purchase over the counter medicines without a prescription.

Johanns said, "These arbitrary and time-consuming changes are unwise and unfair to families trying to make good choices. Requiring prescriptions for aspirin or a doctor's visit for hay-fever is not health care reform, it's government overreach and interference. Families with children who have special needs are among those who rely heavily upon these accounts and they shouldn't be punished. It's time to restore these accounts and restore commonsense."

Paulsen said, "It defies logic for Washington to restrict and deny the flexibility so many American families need in using their health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts. Forbidding families from using money they have set aside to purchase affordable over-the-counter medications such as Claritin and Tylenol not only wastes the time and money of families and individuals, but also places an additional burden on doctors and health professionals. Washington should be working to find ways to promote and protect programs that help lower the cost of healthcare and allow individuals to make better healthcare choices."

HSAs and FSAs are special spending accounts that allow individuals to set aside pre-tax dollars for their health care costs. Prior to the health care law, FSAs had no contribution limits. This allowed families to plan for known or routine out-of-pocket health expenses not covered by insurance plans.

The contribution caps are especially harmful for families who have children with special needs. They can use these FSA accounts to pay for special education costs, which can cost up to $14,000 annually.

Many families use these special health care accounts for associated expenses like extra contact lenses, reading glasses and over-the-counter cold or allergy medications. The new requirements in the health care law force families to spend time and money to receive prescriptions for these common purchases before the purchases qualify for HSA and FSA spending.

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