St. Louis, MO, USA – The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) encourages consumers to support the “Responsible Additions and Increases to Sustain Employee (RAISE) Health Benefits Act of 2015” (H.R. 1185). The bill would significantly improve benefits under the existing Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plans offered by many US employers. FSA accounts allow consumers to set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for many medical and healthcare expenses not covered by insurance.
Introduced by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), the proposed legislation is good news for individuals and families planning to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses, including orthodontic treatment. The bill would give consumers more control over out-of-pocket health care expenditures by offering more flexibility, planning options and financial benefits.
Under the RAISE Health Benefits Act of 2015, families and individuals will be able to:
- Save more by increasing the annual FSA cap to $5,000 per year from the current $2,550
- Add an additional $500 to the FSA savings cap for each dependent above two dependents
- Better prepare for expected and unanticipated health care costs by carrying over unused funds
Hundreds of thousands of individuals and families depend on medical FSAs to cover the costs of anticipated and unplanned out-of-pocket health care costs, including rising deductibles, co-pays, vision and dental expenses.
“The changes in health care through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are not keeping pace with the cost of health care, particularly oral health care, which largely isn’t covered for adults,” says Rep. Grisham.
“No matter what kind of health care arenas you’re working in,” she says, “there’s always a gap, there’s always a place where people don’t have access to benefits, or the benefit is taxed or minimised, which means that we never give a patient or health care consumer everything they need. (The RAISE bill) gives you a tax-free incentive to save to meet those health care expenses,” she adds.
“There’s currently a $2,550 annual limit on the funds that an employee can put into their FSA, which does not take into account the size of a family or the cost of living with chronic health complications,” adds Morris N. Poole, DDS, president of the AAO. “That leaves consumers with tough choices, especially those with large families. It often comes down to forgoing necessary orthodontic, vision or other types of care.”
Even more limiting, the ACA states that unused FSA funds set aside in one year will be inaccessible under a “use-it-or-lose it” policy. (This provision was amended in 2013 allowing families to rollover $500 to the next calendar year. This was an improvement, but it doesn’t completely eliminate the “use-it-or-lose it” concern that many have about the current plan.)
“On the other hand, the RAISE Health Benefits Act ensures that families will be able to carry over their full FSA balance every year,” says Dr. Poole. “This is a life-changing proposition. It will relieve hardworking families of the stress of having to use up FSA dollars by the end for the year, and opens up more opportunities for long-term savings when the time comes to begin orthodontic treatment or other uncovered medical needs.”
There are currently 54 sponsors of the bill in Congress, and the AAO is urging its members, consumers and all orthodontic patients to write their Congressmen and Congresswomen to support the RAISE Health Benefits Act. It is a vital step in ensuring that families have options when it comes to planning for and providing for medical and orthodontic care for their loved ones.