HEALTH

Legislation introduced to restore OTCs as eligible FSA expenses without a prescription

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., on Tuesday introduced legislation that repeals a portion of Obamacare that prohibits people from using their medical savings account funds to buy over-the-counter medications. Under current law, plan participants may no longer use funds from these accounts to purchase OTC medications, unless they have a prescription for the medication.

“This prohibition takes away choice and flexibility from individuals about how to manage their health care expenses and adds yet another burden to physicians,” Roberts stated. “Rather than promoting cost-effectiveness and accessibility, this provision directs people to potentially more costly, less convenient, and more time-consuming alternatives.”

“We are encouraged by the Administration’s recent decision to permit FSA participants to roll over up to $500 from one year to the next, but we feel that more needs to be done to ensure that FSA and HSA users are not penalized by the medicine cabinet tax,” Scott Melville, president and CEO for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association stated in support of the legislation. “Thanks to the leadership of Sens. Roberts and Landrieu, there is now bipartisan, bicameral support for a change to the PPACA that would restore consumers’ rights to spend their FSA and HSA dollars on any medicine they need. When the president and leaders of both parties sit down to negotiate improvements to the PPACA, we believe this commonsense legislation should be at the top of their list.”

The legislation, S. 1647, repeals section 9003 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, restoring the ability of those participating in a medical savings account, such as a Flexible Savings Account, or other similar type of medical savings account, to use the funds to purchase OTC medications.

Nearly 50 million Americans participate in FSAs and other health savings accounts, Roberts noted.

On average, physicians say about 10% of office visits result from minor ailments which could be self-managed by patients, including by the use of OTC medicines. This amounts to over 40 million appointments each year that could be avoided with self-care, CHPA noted. A January 2012 study by Booz & Company estimated that OTCs provide $102 billion dollars in savings to our nation’s healthcare system every year. These benefits are realized through reduced doctor visits accounting for $77 billion of those savings and reduced drug costs accounting for $25 billion.

Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., and John Barrow, D-Ga.

The bill was cosponsored by Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Dean Heller, R-Nev.

The bill is supported by the Health Choices Coalition, which represents physicians, consumers, retailers, manufacturers, pharmacies, pharmacists, patients, pharmacy benefit managers, small businesses and employers in an effort to stop the unintended consequences resulting from the PPACA restriction on OTCs.

 

 

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Reports: Rite Aid will no longer sell OTC drugs with pseudoephedrine as only active ingredient in W.Va.

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Rite Aid has stopped selling some cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine at its stores in West Virginia, according to published reports.

The Charleston, W.Va., Gazette reported that the chain would stop selling medicines that have pseudoephedrine as their only active ingredient, such as Sudafed 12 Hour and Sudafed 24 Hour, though they would continue selling products that combine pseudoephedrine with other ingredients like antihistamines and painkillers.

Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in the production of methamphetamine, which has led to restrictions on cold medicines containing it, but the newspaper noted that meth makers don’t usually buy combination pills.

The Gazette reported last month that Rite Aid, CVS and Walmart were selling the highest quantities of pseudoephedrine medicines in the state.

 

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Vitamin Shoppe investing in omnichannel retailing

BY Michael Johnsen

NORTH BERGEN, N.J. — The Vitamin Shoppe is making significant investments into omnichannel retailing, CEO and director Anthony Truesdale told analysts during a conference call on Tuesday. 

"Our omnichannel initiative is an important focus for the company, one which will enable us to further improve service to our customers," he said. "This is a multiyear project. Phase one includes the ability for customers to buy online and pick up in the store. We expect to have this service available by the end of next year," he said. "All [of] this is designed so that customers can shop however, wherever and whenever they want, and this will set us further apart from pureplay e-commerce companies."

Vitamin Shoppe recently boosted its online retailing appeal with the addition of PayPal as a payment option earlier in the quarter, Truesdale added. Also in an effort to enhance its online offering, Vitamin Shoppe has been tweaking its multiple interfaces. "We’re seeing the tremendous movement of customers and growth in the tablet business and our phone business," Truesdale said. "So we’re going to continue to invest in those two devices, to make sure that … it continues to meet what the customer expects from The Vitamin Shoppe," he said. "The tablet experience is different than the phone experience, and we’re adapting our experiences based on how the customer uses those devices when they shop at Vitamin Shoppe."

Vitamin Shoppe also announced the launch of two new premium private-brand products, including a probiotic under its Probiocare label and a line of herbs to be marketed under its Plant label.

 

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