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ACA Funding Threatened by House Committee Vote

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, June 4, 2012

Democratic efforts to force committee Republicans to identify off sets or other spending cuts were met with procedural objections. Rep. David Camp (R-MI) said there is no requirement to identify offsets at the committee level.

In the end, the bill easily passed with two Democrats, Rep. Ron Kind from Wisconsin and Rep. Shelley Berkley of Nevada, breaking ranks to support the bill.

Supporters of HR 5842 (Restoring Access to Medication Act) deftly positioned the ACA disqualification of expenses for most over-the-counter medications under HSAs as a tax. OTCs are only covered if they are prescribed by a physician.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), noted that holders of HSAs now need to use after-tax dollars to pay for OTC medications and suggested that amounted to a tax increase on families.

Rep. Shelly Berkley (D-Nev) said HSAs and similar accounts enabled individuals to have more control over their healthcare decisions and where to seek care. She noted that requiring a prescription for OTC drugs increases healthcare costs for many individuals who must take time away work to obtain prescriptions. "Plan participants should have the ability to use the dollars they set aside for healthcare expenses for pay for the cost of over-the-counter medications."

Rep. Levin wondered if increasing access to health savings accounts was how Republicans planned to replace the existing ACA. "That falls far short of the needs of America families. Neither FSAs nor HSAs provide comprehensive coverage. They are not real solution to the problems facing our healthcare system."

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