Last night I was just minding my own business and all of a sudden some freaky stuff happened. Luckily I caught it all on video for your viewing pleasure. I seriously thought I was a goner for a minute there. If you haven’t watched the video yet, DO IT NOW. The rest of this post won’t make any sense if you read it now. Plus, it will kind of give away the surprise ending. So stop reading and start watching. Then come back here when you’re done.
So, the really scary thing here are the increased taxes that me and everyone else in America will have to pay due to this change in how we are allowed to spend our HSA or FSA dollars. An HSA (Health Savings Account) or FSA (Flex Spending Account) can be used to save money for medical expenses because money in one of these accounts is never taxed as long as it is spent on qualified medical expenses. Money in an HSA can be saved year over year, but this account can only be opened by someone with a high deductible insurance plan. An FSA has the same benefits, but all the money in an FSA must be spent in that tax year or else the money is lost.
Today (in 2010) anyone can use these accounts to buy over-the-counter medicine such as headache medicine (Excedrin), pain relievers (Advil, Aleve), bandages (Band-Aids) and lots of other stuff without needing a prescription from your doctor. Last year I bought a knee brace after I hurt myself playing Ultimate Frisbee and I used my HSA; basically it was 25% off because of the tax money I was saving, and knowing I had a 25% discount seriously helped me to buck up and pay for the brace (what can I say, I’m Cheap).
Starting in 2011, thanks to Obamacare, none of this over the counter medication will be eligible without a doctor’s prescription. This legislation that was supposed to help decrease health costs is now forcing us to either pay to see a doctor and get a prescription for over-the-counter health care purchases, or buy this stuff without the benefit of the tax advantaged accounts. This really grinds my gears for two reasons:
- Most importantly, it tells me that the government doesn’t believe I am smart enough to self-medicate. Seems like this administration is trying to tell me that “only your doctor knows if you really have a headache.” Is this some kind of bad joke? I don’t need a doctor to tell me when I need to take an Ibuprofen; I’m smart enough to figure that out, thank you. It doesn’t matter whether people are paying to see their doctor and get a doctor’s note (which sounds like elementary school crap) or buying the stuff without using the HSA/FSA; either way this makes health care more expensive for Americans with those accounts.
- It makes FSAs useless for many people. With the FSA, if you don’t use it, you lose it (just like in 40-Year old Virgin). In the past, if you put money in an FSA and December rolled around and you still had some left to spend, you could stock up on over-the-counter meds for next year. Now you won’t have that option, and I am willing to bet that a lot of people don’t use the FSA next year for fear of not being able to spend that money. Even worse, I bet people end up losing money because they couldn’t spend it on anything.
To be honest, I don’t buy a lot of meds and this will probably only affect me personally by a few dollars a year, but on principle I think this change is absurd. As far as I can tell, this change is being made solely for the government to increase their tax revenues, and it’s coming at the expense of making health care accessible to Americans. I think that’s a horrible trade and I’m more than a little pissed off about it!
OK, I’ve expressed my opinion; now I’m interested in yours. Do you think this law takes our country in the right direction on health care and taxes, or do you think this will just make health care even more expensive than it already is?
And if you think this is a good idea, please tell me why. I like to believe I’m a pretty objective thinker, but I honestly can’t think of a single reason.