New survey finds that consumers want to use FSA and HSA accounts to purchase dietary supplements

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According to a recent Ipsos survey jointly commissioned by the Council for Responsible Nutrition and Consumer Healthcare Products Association, 8 out of 10 (78%) consumers who have flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts want their accounts to include dietary supplements as allowable reimbursements.

Photo © iStockphoto.com/pavlen

Photo © iStockphoto.com/pavlen

According to a recent Ipsos survey jointly commissioned by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, D.C.) and Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA; Washington, D.C.), 8 out of 10 (78%) consumers who have flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) want their accounts to include dietary supplements as allowable reimbursements. Currently, the law allows employees with FSAs and HSAs to put aside money pre-tax to pay for healthcare costs. These include medical care, prescription drugs, dental and vision care, over-the-counter medications, and menstrual products, but the law does not routinely allow dietary supplements to be recognized as “qualified medical expenses.”

“Although 75 percent of Americans use some type of dietary supplement, tens of millions of these same people, who invest into FSAs and HSAs, can’t then use that money to purchase, for example, children’s vitamins for their kids,” said Steve Mister, president and CEO of CRN, in a press release. “Our interpretation of this survey tells us people don’t want to be penalized any longer for being proactive about their health by purchasing products that will help to keep their families healthy.”

In 2020, it was estimated that Americans put more than $30 billion in FSA accounts and at the beginning of 2022, approximately $100 billion was invested in HSAs. According to the survery, 33% of FSA and HSA account owners mistakenly believe they can use their pre-tax savings to purchase vitamins, while 29% are not sure if dietary supplements are covered or not.

“Consumers deserve and want the ability to choose how to best use their money to stay healthy and practice self-care,” said Scott Melville, president and CEO of CHPA, in a press release. “With more Americans incorporating dietary supplements into their overall self-care plans, we must recognize the ever-increasing role they play in helping people improve their health and wellness. Today’s proactive consumers want flexibility to make pre-tax purchases of a range of health products, from OTC medicines and devices to dietary supplements, and these accounts should be a resource that encourages people to take charge of their health.”

Beyond the savings for consumers, a recent CRN study makes the case that supplement use can in fact save the U.S. healthcare system money by reducing direct and indirect medical costs associated with several common conditions by tens of billions of dollars annually. Critics of allowing medical expenses to include dietary supplements claim that it would mean less overall tax revenue for the federal governments, however, according to the survey, only 34% of FSA and HSA holders said they were likely to increase their current investment levels, and only 25% of non-account holders said the change would make them open to an FSA or HSA account and contributing to it.

“Americans are using dietary supplements and saving the country billions in healthcare costs,” added Mister. “Any tax-revenue hit the federal government would experience would be offset by the overall savings to the healthcare system. It makes sense for consumers—and the country.”

Watch the full video from SupplySide East 2023 here.

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