Congress is currently weighing two new bills that can help bring nutritional and dietary supplements to a much larger part of our population. The first is proposed bill, S.2499 – Health Savings Act of 2016, submitted by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), which would extend HSA (health savings account) coverage to certain nutritional and dietary supplements. A complimentary bill, H.R.4469 – Health Savings Act of 2016, has been introduced to the House of Representatives by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN). Both bills contain language supporting the consideration of “Certain Nutritional and Dietary Supplements…Treated as Medical Care.”
This is important because the body has its own internal healing mechanisms. When properly fueled, the body can and does care for itself. It’s simple physiology. When proper dietary supplementation is available, the body becomes properly nourished. It then becomes more capable of completing its normal physiological processes.
Why This Legislation Matters
Supplements are crucial to the nutrition of a large part of our nation’s population. As you already know, nutrition directly impacts wellness.  The American diet has changed drastically for several decades. Unfortunately, many of our nutritional needs are no longer met through what we’re eating. That’s why supplements are often necessary for optimal health. They help us consume the vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients that our bodies require – even if we aren’t actually getting enough of these in our everyday diets. To help illustrate the extent of this issue, it’s worth noting that over half of adults in the U.S. reported taking supplements between 2003 and 2006 – a 20% increase from the early 90’s. 
Unfortunately, not everyone has the resources to completely change their diet or purchase supplements outright. And that’s part of the beauty of these two bills. Let’s take a look at what HSAs are and how they work.
What Is an HSA?
HSAs are personal savings accounts where one can withdraw funds for medical expenses. This might include over-the-counter medicines, prescription drugs, or doctor’s visits. These accounts are a part of many insurance plans, called high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). They do offer a federal tax incentive. Unfortunately, their use has not been extended to account for all potential wellness needs.
Up until now, nutritional supplements have not been covered by HSAs. If either or both of these bills are able to make their way through Congress and, ultimately, become law, that will change. Now let’s talk about why this matters so much.
Why Should Supplements Be Covered by HSAs?
The human body has many specific dietary needs to function properly.  Different parts of the body, as well as different physiological functions, cannot operate normally without getting the right fuel. As our diet has experienced such a large shift away from natural, homemade foods over the last 50 years , many of us are still failing to consume the nutrients our bodies need.  That’s why more and more of us are turning to supplementation. 
Knowing that nutrition is vital to wellness. One of the government’s primary responsibilities should be ensuring that the nutritional needs of the people are met. There are programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Yet, these don’t necessarily ensure that we are being properly nourished.
The WIC program restricts what foods can be purchased  by state. This limits program members’ options to choices that may not meet all their needs. Use for these programs has grown exponentially.  Unfortunately, they are still not meeting the needs of the people.   Senator Hatch and Representative Paulsen’s respective bills could change that forever. Here’s your chance to help be a part of it.
How Can I Get Involved?
As a member of the natural health and wellness community, we ask you to voice your thoughts on these bills. We urge you to contact your Senator and ask him/her to vote in favor or bill S.2499. Contact your Representative and ask for his/her support for bill H.R.4469. You will be joining in with many wonderful groups, including the American Herbal Products Association,(AHPA) the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the Natural Products Association (NPA), the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), and many others.
Similar legislation has been introduced in the past but has yet to become law. Let’s not let this happen again. Speak to your Congressional representatives. Let them know that you support this effort to make nutritional and dietary supplements more widely available!
- Kennedy, ET. “Evidence for nutritional benefits in prolonging wellness.” 2006.
- “Products – Data Briefs – Number 61 – April 2011.” 2011. 1 Mar. 2016.
- Joint, FAO. “Vitamin and mineral requirements in human nutrition – World …” 2005.
- Smith, LP. “Trends in US home food preparation and consumption …” 2013.
- Wilson, MM. “American Diet Quality: Where It Is, Where It Is Heading, and …” 2015.
- “Links to State Agency WIC Approved Food Lists | Food and …” 2014. 1 Mar. 2016.
- “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation and Costs.” 2013. 1 Mar. 2016.
- Satia, JA. “DIET-RELATED DISPARITIES: UNDERSTANDING THE …” 2009.
- Drewnowski, A. “Can Low-Income Americans Afford a Healthy Diet?” 2010.