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Health Care Solutions Focused on Putting the Patient in Control

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Washington, August 17, 2018 | Pete Larkin (540-857-2672) | comments
Health Savings Accounts are an effective way to access lower insurance premiums, reduce health care costs, and directly engage patients with their own health care decisions.
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When you were a kid, odds are that you might’ve had some kind of savings stashed away. Whether it was a piggy bank, an old jar, or a coffee can, the coins and dollar bills you saved up meant a good deal to you. That’s because it was yours to spend on what you wanted. When it comes to health care policy today, the premise should be similar.

People and families across the country should be empowered to make health care decisions that work for their needs and budget. I have long supported health care policies that put the patient in control, not the government. One popular tool that helps millions of Americans do this is a Health Savings Account, or HSA. HSAs, generally offered to those with high-deductible health insurance plans, allow families and individuals to set aside money on a pre-tax basis for certain medical expenses, like deductibles and copayments.

HSAs are an effective way to access lower insurance premiums, reduce health care costs, and directly engage patients with their own health care decisions. These accounts are becoming more and more popular with the general public and employers alike as a way to help make health care more affordable. According to a recent study by America’s Health Insurance Plans, 21.8 million people were covered by a plan with an HSA as of January 2017 – twice the number of people enrolled in Obamacare’s exchanges.

Last month, the House of Representatives passed two bills, both with wide, bipartisan support, to modernize and improve access to HSAs. The Restoring Access to Medication and Modernizing Health Savings Accounts Act expands the scope of qualified medical expenses to make the accounts work better for individuals and families. For example, it would allow HSA funds to be used for over-the-counter medicines. The second bill, the Increasing Access to Lower Premium Plans and Expanding Health Savings Accounts Act, allows more people to qualify to contribute to an account and increases the amount that can be saved tax-free. More Americans would gain access to lower cost “catastrophic” health insurance plans eligible for an HSA.

I was proud to support the creation of HSAs more than a decade ago as a way to encourage individuals to buy health plans that better suit their needs so that insurance kicks in only when it is truly needed. Congress has the opportunity now to join in a bipartisan effort to help more Americans access the resources needed to take greater control of their health care. The role of the government is to foster increased access to quality care based on individual choice, and I hope the Senate will join the House in passing these bills.
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