Why Health Care Saving Accounts should be expanded during coronavirus pandemic

A simple, one-page piece of legislation will allow Americans to pay for their health care tax-free during the duration of the coronavirus pandemic

In the next coronavirus relief bill, Democrats want to spend more money while Republicans want to reopen and restore the economy with further tax reduction and liability protection so the trial lawyers do not sue the economy into the ground.

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What else can Congress do? Amid the inevitable clamor for special interest spending there is one very good idea.

The Pandemic Healthcare Access Act (S.3546/H.R. 6338), introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Congressman Ted Budd, R-N.C., addresses both the economy and our health.

This simple, one-page piece of legislation allows Americans to pay for their health care tax-free during the duration of the pandemic by expanding Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

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Currently, there is a government requirement that HSAs can only be offered to Americans that have a high deductible health plan (HDHP). The Pandemic Healthcare Access Act suspends this requirement for as long as the coronavirus emergency declaration is in effect.

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This will increase access to health care by making HSAs available to hundreds of millions of Americans including those on Medicare and Medicaid, and those that receive care through the VA, Indian health plans, ObamaCare and any employer plan.

It will also help individuals pay for their deductible or any increased health care costs, allow HSA funds to pay for direct primary care, and allow telemedicine below the deductible.

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It will also reduce taxes for millions of Americans.

An HSA allows Americans to save, invest, and spend health care dollars tax-free. Any money contributed to any HSA is tax-deductible, any money invested in an HSA can grow tax-free, and any money spent on qualified health care expenses from an HSA is tax-free.

This is a tax cut, not a spending increase. HSA reform means the government is taking less money from people.

Moreover, HSA expansion can be scaled up or down. A proposal could permanently expand HSAs for everyone, or simply expand it to those on Medicare.

In addition, the “cost” of expanding HSAs should be weighed against the cost of health care expansion proposals pushed by the left, all of which would result in billons or trillions of dollars in new spending.

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For instance, presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden’s proposal to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60 and impose a “public option” would cost American taxpayers at least $2.25 trillion.

The “Medicare for All” plan pushed by socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez D-N.Y. and Bernie Sanders I-Vt. would cost $32 trillion and lead to trillions in middle-class tax increases.

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Even the proposals being pushed by Congressional Democrats right now to expand Medicaid and ObamaCare would cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

HSAs are already a successful model of health care and can be a way for conservatives to contrast their policies with the policies of the left to expand the government’s role in health care.

HSAs were created over 15 years ago and are currently used by 30 million American families and individuals to pay for common healthcare expenses, including doctor’s visits, prescription drugs, and hospital care.

HSAs are controlled by the individual, not the government.

Because of this, HSAs lead to more efficient health care spending. In fact, research shows that families and individuals with an HSA spend less on health care and use fewer medical services without forgoing necessary primary and preventative care.

At least 30 conservative groups are backing the Cruz effort to expand HSAs.

We know Democrats will propose spending more money. Republicans should contrast this by pushing proposals to cut taxes and increase health care freedom by expanding HSAs by allowing Americans to pay for health care tax-free during the pandemic.

Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform.

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