Fridays (with Benefits) - 4/5/19 - We need more money and more flexibility

Speculation is fine. Speculation can be good. But speculation is meaningless if no one makes good on the promise. For almost a year, we've been speculating about necessary changes to health care, especially when it comes to flexible spending accounts (FSAs).

(What can we say - we're a little biased to FSAs around here…)

Well, nothing's in stone yet, but it seems like the discussion of expanding FSA eligibility, along with a slew of other needed changes, is at least part of the conversation on Capitol Hill. And the longer it is, the more likely we are to see real change come from the speculation. Our first article goes into the latest news from Washington regarding these accounts. Our second article highlights why these changes are so desperately needed.

Let's take a look…

House Introduces Bill to Bolster Consumer Health Savings - Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA)

This is such a big story, we're featuring it here, and also in our HSA Headlines column. But we simply can't ignore the importance that a new version of the "Restoring Access to Medication Act" was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Various versions of this bill were introduced in the past, but this one has a major chance of passing with bipartisan support from Representatives Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), and Darin LaHood (R-Ill.).

Two major developments would come out of this bill if it was signed into law:

  1. The requirement to obtain prescriptions for OTC medicines with FSA/HSA funds would disappear.
  2. Feminine care products like tampons would be considered qualified medical items for the first time, making them eligible for purchase with FSA/HSA funds.

Allowing the purchase of feminine care products with tax-free funds is something we discuss a lot on this page, especially when the subject started being included in various pieces of legislation of late. But there seems to be something more going on -- something that appeals to both sides of the political aisle, so we'll be following this piece of legislation very closely in the months to come.

Americans Borrowed $88 Billion to Pay for Health Care Last Year, Survey Finds - Karen Zraick, The New York Times

That isn't a typo -- Americans borrowed an estimated $88 billion over the last year to pay for health care, according to a survey released on Tuesday by Gallup and the nonprofit West Health.

And because of these exorbitant costs, roughly 25% of Americans have skipped treatment, with nearly 50% fearing bankruptcy in the event of a health emergency. In fact, even in households earning $180,000 or more a year, roughly 1/3 of respondents said they were concerned about potential bankruptcy because of a health crisis.

As a result? Crippling nationwide debt, regardless of region, tax brackets or income levels -- people live in fear of getting sick and going broke. And they're avoiding the care they need because of it, making them sicker and ultimately in need of more money to pay for it.

It's a vicious cycle that starts and ends in Washington, which the article highlights in more detail than we can offer here. But it's a worthwhile read for anyone wondering just how hard people are being hit whenever they get sick… and how much harder it hits if they ignore their own health needs.


Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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