Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Alphabet Soup News: "Reform" Edition

As regular readers know, we're big fans of consumer-centric health insurance (e.g. HSA's). These kinds of plans have demonstrated a unique ability to actually impact the cost of health care. It's a shame, then, that one of the results of current "reform" efforts will be to eliminate them from the marketplace. The withdrawal won't be immediate, but gradual, through attrition.

We can see this occurring in real-time, as ObamaCare immediately imposes a 40% rate increase on the cost of certain medications. This will disproportionally affect those least able to cope with it, since OTC (over the counter) med's are usually much less expensive than comparable prescription-only versions:

"[I]f you pay for any of these items with money in your flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) ... you will face an effective tax increase of up to 40 percent on these items in the health care bill..."

The current "reform" legislation removes non-prescription medications from the "approved" list for plans subject to 213d requirements. This has the immediate effect of increasing their net cost, and thus discouraging their use. It's hard to reconcile that result with the purported goal of reining in the cost of health care. Indeed, it's obviously going to have the opposite effect.

But it's merely the first step in excising the one piece of Kennedy-Kassebaum that has continued to irritate the nanny-staters: tax-qualified health savings accounts. Once the "Exchanges" are up and running, the underlying high deductible products that drive HSA will be outlawed; FSA's will continue, since they encourage spending, which is apparently the (counter-intuitive) goal of ObamaCare.
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