HEALTH

CHPA: OTC medicines should remain eligible expenses under FSA

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON Congress is looking into possibly removing over-the-counter medicine reimbursement from flexible spending accounts, according to a U.S. Senate Finance Committee report released last month, if not eliminating FSAs altogether.

In the May 20 report, the Committee wrote around not including OTCs as eligible expenses under FSA: “Under this option, with respect to medicines, the definition of medical expense for purposes of employer plans (health reimbursement arrangements and health flexible spending arrangements) and health savings accounts could be conformed to the definition for purposes of the itemized deduction for medical expenses. Thus, for example, under the proposal, the cost of nonprescription medicines would not be reimbursed through a flexible spending arrangement.”

The suggestions are being made as one possible way to help raise the revenue that will supplement the expected costs associated with healthcare reform. Reversing the Internal Revenue Services’ decision to include OTC medicines as eligible expenses under FSAs, or eliminating the FSA program entirely, effectively makes those medicinal purchases taxable again.

In response to the report, CHPA sent a letter May 26 to U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus, D-Mont., urging the committee to not consider eliminating FSAs and to preserve the current gross income exclusions for reimbursements for OTC medicines, the association announced in its e-newsletter Friday.

“Rather than limit these important tools for making health care more affordable, they should be encouraged and expanded,” CHPA wrote in its letter. “OTCs represent more than $20 billion in annual health care spending that is paid directly by consumers, not covered by health insurance. Reducing, or even eliminating, current support for consumer health care spending is bad policy both because of the additional fiscal burden it would impose on consumers and because it would discourage consumers from utilizing important medicines for prevention, treatment and symptomatic relief.”

According to CHPA, the Senate committee has not indicated when it will take up consideration of proposals to finance healthcare reform. Any committee action would be followed by action by the full Senate. The U.S. House of Representatives also would have to agree to the provisions before they could be sent to President Barack Obama. The president has indicated that he wants to sign healthcare reform legislation before the end of the year.

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Natrol launches vitamin supplement

BY Michael Johnsen

CHATSWORTH, Calif. Natrol on Thursday launched Fish Oil + Vitamin D3, a combination of nutrients for overall health and immunity. The supplement is formulated as a softgel to be taken once daily at an average suggested retail price of $16.99.

The company cited recent scientific studies that have shown vitamin D3 — the vitamin that the body manufactures from sunlight — to be beneficial for aiding overall health, including bone health, immunity support and cellular protection in both men and women, and especially for middle-age and older adults, as the genesis for combining the two ingredients.

Commonly known for their heart health and bone health benefits, fish oil (omega-3 fats) and vitamin D have recently been studied for their cellular activity and abilities to promote breast health, colon health and prostate health, Natrol added. At the cellular level, research shows that omega-3 fats are the building blocks for cellular membranes.

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Stayhealthy presents wireless body-fat analyzer; final product to be HealthVault-friendly

BY Michael Johnsen

BELLEVUE, Wash. Following a two-year clinical study at the University of Southern California, Stayhealthy on Thursday introduced their next generation body composition analysis technology at Microsoft’s Connected Health Conference.

The technology accurately measures body composition in various forms depending on the need – from a home use individual device that will retail for less than $100 to a commercial grade device for physicians, fitness and nutrition professionals.

The devices will be able to upload the data directly into Microsoft HealthVault. “Stayhealthy’s body composition analysis is an example of inexpensive and innovative technology that connects with HealthVault to really make a difference in improving healthcare,” stated David Cerino, general manager of the Consumer Health Solutions Group at Microsoft. “Through our cooperative efforts, we are creating technology that brings together the power of the web, server-based processing and medical grade devices to deliver a revolutionary means of helping people better understand and measure their weight-related health risks.”

“At a time when our nation faces a healthcare crisis driven by excess weight and obesity, we are excited to introduce the Stayhealthy Body

Composition Analysis technology,” stated John Collins, CEO of Stayhealthy. “By providing this technology we hope to help millions of people track their body compositions and make positive adjustments as necessary.”

Stayhealthy’s Body Composition Analysis technology incorporates two elements – a physical data collection device that utilizes bio-impedance technology, and a proprietary server-based algorithm that analyzes the data collected at the device and provides a precise body composition reading via the Internet back to the user’s computer.

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