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White House blasts HSA deduction limits package

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The Obama administration is opposing an effort to increase the health savings account (HSA) deduction limit along with two other health measures bundled with it in H.R. 1270.

House Republican leaders plan to bring H.R. 1270, the Restoring Access to Medication Act of 2015 bill, to the House floor Thursday, according to an analysis posted by the House Republicans.

Related: EBRI: High deductibles make patients talk

The H.R. 1270 package includes:

  • The original text of H.R. 1270, which would let consumers use cash in HSAs and other personal health accounts to buy over-the-counter drugs without a prescription.

  • The text of H.R. 5445, which would increase the maximum deduction to about $7,800 for an individual and about $15,000 for a family, up from $3,350 for an individual and $6,750 for a family today.

  • The text of H.R. 5445, which could require some Affordable Care Act public health insurance exchange users earning as little as 300 percent of the federal poverty level to the pay the full value of an excess premium subsidies used to pay for health coverage back to the Internal Revenue Service. Today, the current “clawback” rules require subsidy users who earn more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level to pay the full value of excess subsidies used back to the government. The subsidy money goes to the exchange plan issuer, not to the insured.

Officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement that President Obama strongly opposes the package.

The extra tax revenue resulting from the restriction on use of health accounts to pay for over-the-counter drugs helps pay for other health programs, officials said.

The change in the exchange premium subsidy clawback provision would hurt low-income and middle-income exchange users, officials said.

The increase in the HSA deduction limits “would provide additional tax breaks that disproportionately benefit those with higher income by expanding tax-preferred health savings accounts,” officials said. “These changes would do little to reduce health care costs or improve quality.”

In related news, members of the House approved another health measure, H.R. 5447, the Small Business Health Care Relief Act of 2016 bill, Tuesday by a voice vote.

The bill would let small employers use “qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements” to reimburse employees for up to $5,130 in individual health premiums each and up to $10,260 in group health premiums each. 

Obama administration officials have concluded that offering that kind of program is impractical under current Affordable Care Act statutory provisions, because the provisions would require the small employers offering the programs to do so without imposing annual or lifetime limits on reimbursement levels.


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