U.S. House passes bill for purchase of OTC medications through FSAs, HSAs without prescription

June 8, 2012

A bill has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 436, the "Protect Medical Innovation Act of 2012") that will allow consumers to purchase OTC medications through their flexible health spending accounts and health savings accounts without first obtaining a prescription.

A bill has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 436, the “Protect Medical Innovation Act of 2012”) that will allow consumers to purchase OTC medications through their flexible health spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) without first obtaining a prescription.

The bill is a repeal of an Affordable Care Act provision that prohibited this policy, which took effect January 1.

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), which is part of the Health Care Choices Coalition, had opposed the original bill from the start. Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) introduced the repeal provision, and the coalition sent a letter to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee leaders to express support for the repeal as the bill was being considered, according to an NCPA statement.

“We commend the U.S. House of Representatives for voting to restore patients’ ability to purchase OTC medications through their FSAs and HSAs without the inconvenience of first getting a prescription from a doctor’s office,” said NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA. "These commonplace and inexpensive medications provide significant relief from pain, allergies, and other ailments and may help avert the need for more expensive medical treatment. For the sake of patients we need to return to that dynamic.”

The next step is for Congress to approve the legislation, and NCPA says that the letter includes facts that substantiate the reasoning behind the repeal. For example, OTC medications “contribute a total of $102 billion each year in savings and cost avoidance in the healthcare system.” And about 19 million working Americans rely on FSAs and HSAs to “help meet their basic health needs, including the purchase of safe, affordable OTC” medications.