For many Americans, the first line of defense against illness is an over-the-counter medicine (OTC). But OTC meds are now more costly for many, since flexible spending accounts (FSA) no longer cover them.
A new study by an OTC trade group shows the three-year-old prohibition is overwhelmingly unpopular.
Flexible spending accounts allow employees to allocate part of their annual earnings tax-free for medical expenses or other basic, care-related costs.
An April study conducted by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) of 2,130 individuals found that 75% of Americans want the law to change so FSAs include OTC expenses again.
And seven in 10 Americans have increased or remained the same on their FSA contributions since 2010, according to the trade group's study -- after the OTC prohibition was put in place to help offset the $759 billion price tag of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The increase in FSA contributions suggests the U.S. government has not seen the savings it anticipated through the OTC prohibition, the study notes.
"45 million Americans have FSA and health-savings accounts," says Scott Melville, president and CEO of the CHPA. "The ACA was supposed to make health care more affordable, not more expensive."
The ACA to date has insured about 9 million Americans who previously did not have health insurance, according to the latest estimates, and as many as 25 million people are expected to be covered over the next two and a half years.
Even so, Melville argues that his group's research shows for every $1 spent on self-care OTC meds, health care costs are cut by nearly $6.
"You shouldn't have to rely on a doctor to fill an expensive prescription every time you're sick," he said.