The pandemic has accelerated consumer behavior towards a more proactive approach to health and wellness, and Congress is taking notice.
Recently, the Dietary Supplements Access Act (H.R. 5214) was introduced by Reps. John Curtis (R-Utah) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.). This legislation would make dietary supplements eligible expenses under tax-preferred flexible spending arrangements (FSAs) or health savings accounts (HSAs). This bipartisan bill represents the convergence of two important trends in personal healthcare. First, consumers are taking greater control over their healthcare routines. Second, they are looking to do so in a cost-effective way.
FSAs/HSAs provide enrollees a convenient, tax-preferred option to cover eligible out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, both for themselves and their families. These plans have grown in popularity in recent years, with an estimated 60 million consumers currently utilizing FSAs and HSAs to budget for and save money on their everyday healthcare expenses for themselves and their families.
There is a very strong case for extending FSA/HSA eligibility to dietary supplements, especially when considering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates nearly 60% of Americans take dietary supplements each month. And consumers are increasingly turning to these products to supplement their diet for optimal health. This is important because the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identified a list of dietary components of public health concern for underconsumption, including calcium, potassium, iron, dietary fiber and vitamin D.
According to an April 2020 New Hope Network NEXT Data & Insights survey, 77% of consumers said personal health was more important to them than in 2019, and 33% of consumers surveyed believed taking a dietary supplement was more important than it was the prior year. With the growing consumer interest in supplements, and increasing scientific literature validating their health benefits, the time is right to assist consumers taking proactive steps to support their personal health through supplementation of their diet.
Congress recognizes the important role that HSAs and FSAs can play in assisting consumers to meet their everyday health expenses. Just last year, legislation was signed into law reinstating FSA/HSA eligibility for over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and, for the first time, menstrual care products. The bill, the Restoring Access to Medication Act, came after years of dialogue with lawmakers —on both sides of the aisle —and was supported by a coalition of diverse stakeholders that included product manufacturers, doctors, patients, employers and women’s health equity activists.
Bringing together different points of view was crucial to expanding HSA/FSA eligibility in 2020, and there is bipartisan interest to expand eligibility once again for dietary supplements. This is why H.R. 5214 represents a very important step forward, and we thank Reps. Curtis and Gottheimer—two members of the Problem Solvers Caucus—for working together on this important legislation.
There is clear momentum to help consumers with their self-care expenses by expanding eligibility in tax-preferred healthcare accounts. A broad coalition of consumer, healthcare provider, insurer/payor and industry leaders is committed to seeing this goal realized into law. With the recent introduction of H.R. 5214, this effort is off to a very promising start.
Scott Melville is the president and CEO of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) and leads the organization’s efforts to empower consumer self-care by preserving and expanding choice and availability of consumer healthcare products, including OTC medicines, dietary supplements and consumer medical devices.