MSAs: Archer Rallies for Program Expansion
To increase financial options for the uninsured and seniors, House Ways and Means Chair Bill Archer (R-Texas) yesterday "vowed to push a new [Medical Savings Account] proposal forward this year before the current program expires Dec. 31," CongressDaily reports. Archer's new proposal on MSAs, which provide a means for individuals to set aside money tax-free for future medical expenses, aims to "repeal the $750,000 policy cap on participation under the current pilot [established in 1996], lower the annual minimum deductible to $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for families, increase contribution amounts to 100% of the deductible and allow employers and employees both to contribute." Republicans largely support the concept of MSAs, claiming that they help the uninsured pay for health care. But Democrats argue that MSAs "encourage the young, healthy and wealthy to pull out of the current healthcare system, leaving higher insurance premiums for the rest." Archer reported that the uninsured represent 42% of MSA policies purchased last year; however, other sources found that only a third of policies sold since the program's inception in 1996 were purchased by the uninsured. Archer couched his measure as one that would "give new rights to patients," take HMOs "out of decision making" and serve as a "natural antidote" to seniors' financial ailments induced by soaring prescription drug costs. The House already passed an MSA expansion bill as part of last year's managed care package, and recent House discussions about a revised managed care reform bill also include a "scaled-back version" of Archer's proposal, which would mandate a higher minimum number of people that must be employed by a firm before it can offer MSAs to employees. But Archer said that the MSA proposal may "turn up in the managed care, minimum wage, or reconciliation bills" that the leadership planned to discuss with President Clinton yesterday (Fulton/Rovner, 9/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.