Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Support Complementary and Alternative Medicine as Covered Medical Expenses

Washington, D.C. - A bill was introduced at the end of May that would expand the IRS code to include herbs, vitamins, minerals, homeopathic remedies, meal replacement products, and other dietary and nutritional supplements as “eligible medical expenses” - a move that is long overdue.

On May 26th Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) introduced the Retirement Health Investment Act of 2011, (S.1098/H.R. 2010). The House version has already garnered 32 cosponsors and both bills are being reviewed in committee.

If you follow health care policy in the news then you already know that there are two health savings programs that help pay for complementary and alternative medical (CAM) treatments normally not covered by regular insurance. These are Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Currently CAM treatments are not considered eligible to be covered by HSAs.

The pH Miracle Group of Companies supports the bill as a critical step in the direction of parity for CAM treatments. However, we agree with the Alliance for Natural Health in its call for the bill's language to be amended. It must address that part of the healthcare reform act that threatens the very existence of HSAs.

HSAs are savings accounts exempt from federal income tax at the time of deposit. Each year any unspent funds accumulate and "roll over" to the following year. To make use of HSAs one must be covered under a high-deductible insurance plan - but starting in 2014 the healthcare reform act will allow high-deductible or catastrophic healthcare insurance plans for people only under the age of 30.

This means that beginning in 2014, people over the age of 30 will not be able to purchase an HSA because they will not be eligible for catastrophic plans—making any changes to HSAs irrelevant to them.

CAM patients have traditionally used such high-deductible plans to cover emergency services, and use HSAs for purchasing treatments not covered by traditional healthcare insurance. Without the preservation of both high-deductible healthcare plans and HSAs, CAM users may have to purchase additional - and expensive - health insurance with coverage they don’t need, while still having to spend money on alternative treatments not covered by insurance.

To be clear, the pH Miracle Group of Companies wholeheartedly supports S. 1098/H.R. 2010 and its fundamental goal of adding CAM treatments to the list of medical expenses eligible for coverage under HSAs. However, the healthcare reform act needs to be amended to allow for catastrophic plans for people over 30 years of age.

Please contact your Congress person in response to this bill sponsored by Senator Hatch.

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