HEALTH

New legislation looks to cut out ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ provision from FSAs

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Reps. Charles Boustany, R-La., and John Larson, D-Conn., on Friday introduced bipartisan legislation that would eliminate the “use-it-or-lose-it” provision associated with flexible spending accounts.

Under the Medical Flexible Spending Account Improvement Act, FSA participants would be able to cash out and pay taxes on any remaining FSA balances at the end of the year. The IRS adopted the forfeiture, or “use-it-or-lose-it” provision, to prevent FSAs from being misused as tax shelters; however, a new $2,500 cap on FSA contributions set to begin in 2013 as required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act addresses that concern separately.

“Americans want healthcare solutions that lower costs,” Boustany stated. “FSAs are a great place to start. These accounts should not penalize individuals who save for medical expenses. We should eliminate this provision and empower consumers to make prudent healthcare decisions.”

Larson added, “Now is the time to finally eliminate the use-or-lose provision. It is truly unfair that families must forfeit hard-earned dollars that they have reserved for health expenses if they remain in the account at the end of the year.”

Save Flexible Spending Plans, an advocacy campaign that works to promote the accessibility and use of FSAs, applauded the bill’s sponsors for their attention to the issue. “As the price of health care continues to climb, FSAs help millions of working Americans manage and hold down their out-of-pocket costs,” stated Joe Jackson, chairman of Save Flexible Spending Plans and CEO of benefits provider WageWorks.

“Unfortunately, the ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ rule creates an unnecessary risk for FSA participants and a deterrent for nonparticipants," Jackson added. "A change to this rule ensures that individuals will not be forced to use up or forfeit any remaining funds simply because their families’ needs did not match their predicted annual healthcare expenses.”

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Dietary supplements used, recommended by physicians with various specialties

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — A study published last week in Nutrition Journal found that dietary supplement usage and patient recommendations were common for physicians across several medical specialties, including dermatology, cardiology and orthopedics.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition’s 2008 "Life…supplemented Healthcare Professionals Impact Study" found that 75% of dermatologists personally use dietary supplements, and 66% recommend supplements to their patients; 57% of cardiologists personally use dietary supplements, and 72% recommend supplements to their patients; and 73% of orthopedic specialists personally use dietary supplements, and 91% recommend supplements to their patients.

"Health professionals, including physicians, have an interest in healthy lifestyles and in habits that may contribute to wellness, which may include the use of dietary supplements,” study authors stated. “Some surveys of physicians suggest that they are as likely as members of the general public to use dietary supplements.”

The most commonly reported product taken by these specialists was the multivitamin, with 44% of all cardiologists, 61% of all dermatologists and 57% of all orthopedists indicating they had taken a multivitamin within the past year. Additionally, more than 25% of physicians in each specialty said they had used omega-3/fish oil supplements, and more than 20% of each of the three specialty groups said they had taken a botanical supplement in the past year, with green tea being the botanical most frequently mentioned.

Overall health and wellness was the top reason these physicians reported for taking supplements, including 32% of cardiologists, 42% of dermatologists and 43% of orthopedists. Heart health was mentioned by more than a quarter of cardiologists and orthopedists, while bone health was mentioned by about a quarter of orthopedists and dermatologists. Lowering cholesterol was cited by 20% of cardiologists, joint health by 29% of orthopedists, and skin, hair and nails by 16% of dermatologists.

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New Chapter debuts Wholemega, Perfect products

BY Michael Johnsen

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — New Chapter last week introduced a slew of new products at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif., including three fish oil supplements and two multivitamins.

New Chapter developed the Wholemega line sourcing wild Alaskan salmon oil and using a cold-pressed proprietary extra-virgin process, similar to that of fine olive oil, to preserve the whole omegas, natural antioxidants and vitamin D3.

Wholemega Cardio combines wild Alaskan salmon oil with tonic herbs that support heart health, such as hibiscus, artichoke and turmeric. Wholemega Flex includes such herbal ingredients as rose hips, turmeric and ginger, and Wholemega Focus contains lemon balm, sage and holy basil in addition to the salmon oil.

New Chapter also launched Perfect Calm and Perfect Energy, two complete multivitamins formulated with organic herbal blends that support calm and overall well-being or enhance energy, endurance and recovery.

Calm includes chamomile and lemon balm to help provide soothing effects. Energy contains a combination of 23 whole-food vitamins and minerals formulated to promote optimal health, while targeting the nutrients a body needs to sustain energy production, like vitamins B, C and E and selenium.

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