Taxing the Sick

The Ways & Means Committee document released last week would no longer allow Americans to pay for over-the-counter drug purchases using tax-free dollars from a health savings account (HSA), health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), flexible spending account (FSA), or Archer medical savings account (MSA).

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  1. Devon Herrick says:

    If this is Congress’ way of financing health reform, it seems rather petty and misguided. Hundreds of OTC drugs were once available only by prescription. Over-the-counter drugs cost about 90 percent less than comparable prescription drugs. Anything Congress does to inhibit the purchase of OTC drugs — or reduce the likelihood of self-care — will result in correspondingly higher-cost physician care and prescription drugs.

  2. Linda Gorman says:

    Does this mean the feds will also stop paying for over-the-counter meds for people without HSAs? It pays the Medicaid match for payments for OTC drugs in a number of states, and for OTC drugs in the VA formulary. The VA formulary includes OTC drugs like aspirin and A&D ointment.

    Simple fairness means that if an OTC drug is important enough to be listed in the VA formulary, it should be important enough to be an allowable HSA expenditure.

  3. Larry C. says:

    It’s penny wise and pound foolish. OTC drugs are generally cheaper than other drugs. They help lower the cost of health care.

  4. Bart Ingles says:

    I think of HSA’s as a sort of Band-Aid (albeit an effective one) to an extremely bad tax policy. So my primary concern still has to be to fix the tax system itself.

  5. Edsel says:

    Wolfram: It’s going to be a website: With one simple input field that gives access to a huge system, with trillions of pieces of curated data and millions of lines of algorithms. TC: [Wolfram Alpha] doesn’t simply return documents that (might) contain the answers, like Google does, and it isn’t just a giant database of knowledge, like the Wikipedia. It doesn’t simply parse natural language and then use that to retrieve documents, like Powerset, for example. Instead, Wolfram Alpha actually computes the answers to a wide range of questions like questions that have factual answers such as ‘What country is Timbuktu in?’ or ‘How many protons are in a hydrogen atom?’ or ‘What is the average rainfall in Seattle?’ Think about that for a minute. It computes the answers. Wolfram Alpha doesn’t simply contain huge amounts of manually entered pairs of questions and answers, nor does it search for answers in a database of facts. Instead, it understands and then computes answers to certain kinds of questions. Maybe Wolfram Alpha could even do a better job of retrieving documents than Google, for certain kinds of questions by first understanding what you really want, then computing the answer, and then giving you links to documents that related to the answer. But even if it is never applied to document retrieval, I think it has the potential to play a leading role in all our daily lives it could function like a kind of expert assistant, with all the facts and computational power in the world at our fingertips. Guardian: Whatever the outcome of Wolfram’s audacious claims, however, his track record is strong. One of his previous creations, the computer program Mathematica, is now used by many scientists to help them with their work. MediaPost: I’m not questioning Google’s motives here; it’s not trying to keep us dumb or make us dumber. Yet there’s a big difference between information retrieval and computation. All of the semantic engines I’ve seen so far focus on making retrieval better, while other engines try to change around the search results page as if it needs some kind of digital feng shui. Wolfram Alpha strikes me (one of the masses who hasn’t seen it yet) as solving a new problem. If it succeeds, congratulations, Mr. Wolfram, and thanks in advance. If it doesn’t, Wolfram is paving the way for others perhaps even Google. VentureBeat: I can’t wait to use this new engine. I remember when Powerset first emerged, making claims that it could use natural language to understand your questions, and generated a lot of hype. The company didn’t live up to the hype but at least offered a valuable contribution to the search engine field. Wolfram Alpha has the feel of something somewhat more realistic, because the magnitude of its task is so clearly obvious from the beginning, and because the founder concedes from the beginning this is a work in progress. ]]>

  6. Arlene says:

    This is phenomenal. TY so much B&N!! We are rvitual schoolers, so this is an awesome resource for us … especially since MARTA is cutting off bus service to our neighborhood library … we will now have to go to a different one in an undesirable location and/or with less resources and/or that’s too far away (also pc’s are being removed from that location … I think ’cause they were loaners and upkeep has become too pricey ’cause they’re older pc’s)