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ICYMI: Committee Passes Legislation to Increase Health Care Choice for Americans

July 13, 2018

This week, the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), passed 11 bills focused on increasing choice and lowering health care costs for Americans.


As Chairman Brady said:


“Today’s markup is all about giving Americans more affordable health care choices. Americans should have the ability to save and spend their health care dollars however they want and need. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for many families thanks, in part, to flawed Obamacare policies and regulations. I’ve heard from countless individuals across my communities in Texas who have been stuck with dwindling options, rising costs, and fewer choices.


“That’s why today’s Ways and Means Committee markup is aimed at increasing access and lowering costs for Americans. We’ll advance policies that expand Health Savings Accounts and also allow for individuals to have an off-ramp from Obamacare’s rising premiums by allowing more choice and financial assistance both on and off government-sponsored exchanges. While these policies do not reverse the failure of Obamacare, they focus on modernizing and expanding access to consumer-directed plans tied to popular Health Savings Accounts. These reforms will preserve the structural integrity of the consumer-directed approach.”


The following bills were approved by the Committee this week:


H.R. 6301, the “Promoting High-Value Health Care Through Flexibility for High Deductible Health Plans Act of 2018,” sponsored by Health Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA).


This bill expands access and enhances the utility of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) by offering patients greater flexibility in designing their plan design while still being able to maintain their eligibility for HSA contributions.


The Committee passed the bill 24-14. Chairman Roskam said:


H.R. 6310 … gives consumers the choice and flexibility to engage in their health care. The bill allows plans to cover for high value, low-cost services like tele-health, chronic disease management, diabetic testing strips, or primary care visits below the deductible. Furthermore, by providing these options, consumers are incentivized to take control of their health and use services to reduce costs down the line.”


H.R. 6317, the “Primary Care Enhancement Act of 2018,” sponsored by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).


This bill protects HSA-eligible individuals who participate in a direct primary care (DPC) arrangement from losing their HSA-eligibility merely because of their participation in a DPC. In addition, it allows DPC provider fees to be covered with HSAs.


The Committee passed the bill 26-12. Rep. Paulsen said:


“Direct primary care is a very important consumer-driven health care delivery form that is now reducing costs and improving access to primary care all across the country. The concept is very simple: Instead of paying a doctor a fee every time you need a procedure, you’ll pay a monthly subscription and hire a doctor you’re going to keep to keep you well.


H.R. 6305, the “Bipartisan HSA Improvement Act of 2018,” sponsored by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).


This bill expands access and enhances the utility of HSAs by allowing spouses to also make contributions to HSAs is their spouse has an FSA and lets employers offer certain services to employees through on-site or retail clinics.


The Committee passed the bill 26-13. Rep. Kelly said:


“Ultimately, this bill modernizes health care delivery and gives employers the freedom to innovate and improve their employees’ health.”


H.R. 6312, the “Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act,” sponsored by Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI).


This bill allows taxpayers to receive tax relief for taking steps to better their health, such as by for signing up for a gym membership or exercise classes and aims to fight obesity in this country for people of all ages.


The Committee passed the bill 28-7. Rep. Smith said:


“This bill will help our children get active by allowing people to use tax preferred accounts to cover the cost of their children’s school sports programs.”


H.R. 6309, the “Allowing Working Seniors to Keep Their Health Savings Accounts Act of 2018,” sponsored by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN).


This bill expands access to HSAs to include seniors who are still in the workforce.


The Committee passed the bill 23-16. Rep. Paulsen said:


“We should be encouraging … these folks to stay in the workforce—especially now in a time when we have more job opening than job seekers and a lot of folks want to be able to continue to work. This is simply another choice that will, ironically, save Medicare money. Save Medicare money because individuals will now use their own health care dollars to pay for services rather than relying on Medicare and straining that program any further.”


H.R.6199, the “Restoring Access to Medication Act of 2018,” sponsored by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY).


This bill reverses Obamacare’s prohibition on using tax-favored health accounts to purchase over-the-counter medical products. It adds feminine products to the list of qualified medical expenses for the purposes of these tax-favored health accounts.


The Committee passed the bill 24-10. Rep Jenkins said:


Over-the-counter medications are often the front-line treatment for many illnesses or for maintenance of chronic diseases and should be treated as medically-reimbursable health care therapies just as prescription medication are … . Restricting consumers’ ability under FSA as another tax preferred accounts and imposes another unfair cost increase on families at a time when many still struggle financially.”


H.R. 6306, the “Improve the Rules with Respect to Health Savings Accounts,” sponsored by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN).


This bill increases the contribution limits for HSAs and further enhances flexibility in plans by allowing both spouses to contribute to make catch-up contributions to the same account and creating a new grace period for medical expenses incurred before the HSA was established.


The Committee passed the bill 22-16. Rep. Paulsen said:


“The bottom line is we’re improving the rules for HSA account holders to allow them to contribute more, catch up contributions with their spouse, and pay older medical bills out of a HSA account: improvements that make sense.”


H.R. 6313, the “Responsible Additions and Increases to Sustain Employee Health Benefits Act of 2018,” Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH).


This commonsense bill allows patients to carry over any remaining balance in their FSAs to the next year.


The Committee passed the bill 22-14. Rep. Jackie Walroski said:


We should be giving patients more control over their health care decisions, not less. H.R. 6313 repeals the use-it-or-lose-it rule and allows balances in FSAs to be carried forward each year, giving families the ability to protect themselves from unexpected medical bills. By allowing them to rollover their unused funds it will incentivize consumers to only purchase what they need, ensuring more economic efficiency in the health care system.”


H.R. 4616, the “Employer Relief Act of 2018,” sponsored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA).


This bill provides retroactive relief from Obamacare’s onerous employer mandate and further delays the law’s harmful Cadillac tax.


The Committee passed the bill 22-15. Rep. Nunes said:


This bill will provide much-needed retroactive relief from the employer mandate enacted under Obamacare as well as the Cadillac tax for one additional year. Delaying Cadillac tax, which forces employers to pay the 40 percent on tax cost employer sponsored health care, will provide much-needed relief not only to employers but to the employees forced to bear the repercussions of this tax.”


H.R. 6314, the “Health Savings Act of 2018,” sponsored by Rep. Burgess (R-TX) and Rep. Roskam (R-IL).


This bill expands eligibility and access to HSAs by allowing plans categorized as “catastrophic” and “bronze” in the exchanges to qualify for HSA contributions.


The Committee passed the bill 23-13. Rep. Roskam said:


It’s simple but, I think, it’s a powerful fix that helps drive consumer choice and flexibility as individuals select the coverage that’s best suited for their needs.”  


H.R. 6311, the “Increasing Access to Lower Premium Plans Act of 2018,” sponsored by Chairman Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX).


This bill provides an off-ramp from Obamacare’s rising premiums and limited choices by allowing the premium tax credit to be used for qualified plans offered outside of the exchanges. In addition, the bill expands access to the lowest-premium plans available for all individuals purchasing coverage in the individual market and allows the premium tax credit to be used to offset the cost of such plans.


The Committee passed the bill 23-16. Rep. Roskam said:


“The bill … provides a much-needed off-ramp for the pressure that people are feeling right now for in terms of premium increases and limited choices by allowing the tax credits to be used for qualified plans offered outside of the law’s exchange and”


CLICK HERE to learn more about this week’s markup.