Congressmen move to grant health reimbursements for supplements

Capitol Hill 2019

A bill introduced Wednesday in Congress would amend the Internal Revenue Code to include certain over-the-counter dietary supplements as a qualified medical expense.

Reps. Brendan Boyle (D-Penn.) and Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) introduced the Dietary Supplement Tax Fairness Act, which would grant Americans the right to be reimbursed from their health savings and flexible spending accounts for out-of-pocket expenses for supplements. The change also would apply to health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).

“The recent global health pandemic has taught us the importance of maintaining a nutrient-rich diet to maintain our health,” Boyle said in a press release announcing the bill. “More than 22 million Americans have chosen to enroll in a health savings account coupled with a consumer-direct health plan. Given this significant growth, action should be taken to better meet consumer needs. Since HSAs, FSAs, and HRAs require a prescription for the reimbursement of vitamins, it makes sense to remove barriers to supplementing nutrient-deficient diets. Our bill takes a step in that direction.”

The Natural Products Association (NPA) welcomed the legislation, which reflects a companion bill to one introduced earlier this year in the Senate by Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.).

“This common-sense solution will help keep Americans healthy as we continue to manage the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dan Fabricant, president and CEO of NPA, in a news release.

Kyle Turk, NPA’s director of government affairs, said “Boyle and LaHood are in a strong position to advance this bill through Congress," since they belong to the House Ways and Means Committee. Ways and Means is the principal tax-writing committee in the House of Representatives. 

NPA added its board of directors recently sent a letter to four other industry trade associations, calling for support of the bills in the House and Senate. 

“In order to continue this great momentum, it’s crucial for the industry to come together in support of these bills,” Fabricant said. “As companion pieces of legislation with sponsors on the appropriate committees, these two bills represent our best chance at expanding access to supplements.”

Another similar bill also is pending in the House of Representatives. In September,  Reps. John Curtis (R-Utah) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) introduced a bill that would permit expenditures from health savings accounts as well as flexible spending and health reimbursement arrangements for dietary supplements.

Marc Schloss, vice president of federal government affairs with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), said his organization supports "legislation that will allow consumers to use pre-tax FSA/HSA accounts to save money on the dietary supplements they use to support their health."

"This is why we’re supportive of H.R. 5214–sponsored by Reps. Curtis and Gottheimer," he said in an emailed statement. "We’re encouraged to see increased bipartisan momentum and interest from Ways and Means members around this issue. CHPA has deep experience on FSA/HSA eligibility of personal healthcare products, and we look forward to discussing further with members and staff.”

The legislation introduced by Boyle and LaHood is just the latest bill introduced over the last several years to include supplements as qualified medical expenses under HSAs and FSAs, observed Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), who also noted his organization has endorsed each of the bills since at least 2011.

"Americans should have ready access to dietary supplements, whether purchasing these directly or through their FSAs and HSAs," McGuffin said via email. "We appreciate and support this latest effort by Representatives Boyle and LaHood to move this rational and appropriate amendment forward, in the interest of supporting Americans’ health care choices."

 

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