HEALTH

SIGIS helps retailers process health-spending debit cards under IRS requirements

BY Drew Buono

SAN RAMON, Calif. A new voluntary industry standard set by the Special Interest Group for Inventory Information Approval System Standards will help retailers meet requirements set by the IRS in regards to accepting flexible spending account and health reimbursement arrangement debit cards, according to published reports.

The IRS requires that “non-healthcare” retailers selling medical goods and services maintain a point-of-sale system that effectively identifies eligible transactions when consumers use FSA and HRA debit cards.

The group’s standards will enable a broad range of participants in health benefit payment card transactions, including food retailers, discount stores, warehouse clubs and mail-order merchants to implement consistent systems and processes for transaction processing and data retention. Implementing this standard will lead to a more efficient healthcare expense system for customers using the debit cards.

More than 60 retail chains have announced their intention to implement the SIGIS standard by Jan. 1, 2008, which is when the IRS is requiring the changes. Pharmacy retailers have until Jan. 1, 2009 to meet the requirements.

With a focus on interoperability, the group brings a diverse range of participants together to offer an IIAS solution that is recognized industry-wide. The founding companies of the Special Interest Group for IIAS Standards include:

  • Chase Paymentech
  • CVS/pharmacy
  • Discover Financial Services
  • First Data Corporation
  • Food Marketing Institute
  • Humana, Inc.
  • MasterCard Worldwide
  • National Association of Chain Drug Stores
  • Target Corporation
  • TSYS
  • Visa Inc.
  • Wal-Mart Stores and Sam’s Club

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NPA highlights difference between steroids and dietary supplements

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON While the sporting nation debates whether the records of accused steroid users Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens should receive an asterisk, the Natural Products Association on Friday looked to apply an asterisk of their own.

Steroids and dietary supplements are mutually exclusive, the association stated. “The idea that athletes were unwittingly ingesting steroids in the dietary supplements they innocently purchased at a health food store has been exposed as the ridiculous notion it always was,” the association noted. “The fact that the performance-enhancing substances purchased in the report needed to be obtained surreptitiously by a third party, typically at a high cost, should have been evidence enough to an athlete that the product was likely to be illegal. Clearly, calling such products ‘dietary supplements’ was an attempt to gain legitimacy and mask their real contents.”

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Year-end sees increased FSA traffic at drugstore.com

BY Michael Johnsen

BELLEVUE, Wash. Drugstore.com on Monday announced that traffic to its online Flexible Spending Account Store is increasing significantly as the end of the year approaches.

“Internet retail is uniquely suited to service FSA Account holders because our online store can carry a much wider selection of eligible items compared to brick-and-mortar stores that are limited by shelf space,” stated David Lonczak, vice president and chief marketing officer, drugstore.com. “Our customers also appreciate the fact that we do the FSA accounting for them, making reimbursements or FSA debit cards a snap as they shop on our site throughout the year or right now when they need to use their FSA dollars or lose them.”

According to drugstore.com, there are an estimated 24 million pre-tax healthcare Flexible Spending Accounts in the United States. Any money left in FSAs at the end of the plan year can’t be rolled over or refunded. So for many FSA account holders it’s “use it or lose it” time.

To promote end-of-year FSA blowouts, this year drugstore.com created bundled recommendations of FSA-eligible items that range in cost from $50 to $75, including:

  • general first aid supplies
  • athlete/outdoorsman supplies
  • baby care essentials
  • suggestions for “Dr. Mom”
  • and medicine cabinet basics

Drugstore.com’s list of most-bought FSA-eligible items include, in ranked order, Prilosec OTC, Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor Test Sticks, ibuprofen. 200 mg, Band-Aid Sheer, Sheer Adhesive Bandages and Sight Savers Pre-Moistened Lens Cleaning Tissues.

Drugstore.com makes it easier for consumers looking to empty their FSA accounts before year’s end by putting more than 3,000 FSA-approved items in one location online. Drugstore.com also provides FSA-only receipts through the web store that customers may choose to print out at any time of the year to turn in for reimbursement.

The online retailer has also set up a payment program that debits an FSA debit card for FSA eligible purchases and prompts for a second form of payment if a non-FSA eligible item is added to the virtual shopping basket.

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