Health savings accounts likely to stay on GOP's agenda

Mary Rechtoris - Print  |

Experts predict health savings account will likely remain a key part of the Republicans' healthcare reform plan, according to MedPage Today. HSAs allow patients to save money for healthcare expenses through these tax-free accounts.

Employers often pair HSAs with high-deductible health plans, which Gerard Anderson, PhD, of Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, noted may draw criticism.

Dr. Anderson told MedPage Today, "I think there will ultimately be a backlash against them, because people want coverage when they get sick, and with very high deductibles of $10,000 people are going to say, 'But I didn't get health insurance coverage, because it didn't kick in until [I spent] $5,000 or $8,000.'"

The GOP's American Health Care Act would have made a series of amendments to the ACA, including reversing a provision that increased the tax on Americans using HSAs for non-healthcare pursuits. The AHCA would also have paired over-the-counter medications with other qualified medical expenses that Americans could have paid via their HSAs. Despite the GOP withdrawing the AHCA due to a predicted lack of support, experts say HSAs will not fade away with the law.

Michael Chernew, MD, of Boston-based Harvard University, told MedPage Today, HSAs are likely to take hold in the industry due to the drive for consumer cost-sharing and controlling healthcare spending.

While many Republicans support the HSAs, there are critics including Sara Collins, PhD, of the Commonwealth Fund. Dr. Collins said in an email these accounts benefit wealthier people based on the account's tax layout. Also, Americans with better health can grow their accounts more readily, and therefore would reap the opportunities in HSAs compared to less healthy patients.

MedPage Today reports there is still bipartisan interest in making HSAs work for Americans. One such improvement would be HSAs helping cover preventive services. Representatives Diane Black, R-Tenn., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., introduced the "Access to Better Care Act of 2016" which would cover chronic disease management treatment and medications "prior to depletion of an HSA."

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