Father of Health Saving Accounts: Congress to Take Baby Steps Toward More Patient Power; Bolder Action Would Be Better

(Dallas, TX) Health economist John C. Goodman but says Congress is about to move in the right direction on Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), but he regrets that the move isn’t bolder.

The House of Representatives is about to pass legislation that would expand the use of HSAs, including allowing more people to have one and increasing the amount that may be deposited. The legislation would also allow important measures that are not allowed currently:

  • HSA purchases of over-the-counter drugs
  • HSA payments to concierge doctors
  • Insurer provision of telephone and email consultations and video examinations in the patient’s home

“These measures are good,” said Goodman. “But they don’t go far enough. The change would allow insurers to spend $250 on video consultations, connecting a doctor to the patient’s home. But there should be no limitation at all on these services,” he said.

Goodman said a rural patient with a chronic disease may be 2 ½ hours away from a doctor. Rather than make a 5 hour round trip, the patient may forego care altogether. So, it makes sense for health insurers to pay for video exams. If they can prevent more costly care later on, it makes sense to provide them free of charge.

“The biggest problem in chronic care is patient compliance with their treatment regimes,” said Goodman. “One way to get patients to comply is to make it as easy and as inexpensive as possible.”

“Telemedicine has the potential to reduce costs, increase quality and expand access to care,” said Goodman. “There should be no financial barriers its use. What if it cost $300 or even $500? Are we going to deny patients access to the modern medicine just because Congress skimped on the amount that could be spent?” he asked.