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Stivers wants to make flexible spending accounts more flexible

By the Ripon Advance Staff

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Washington, February 28, 2019 | comments

U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) on Feb. 26 sponsored bipartisan legislation to reform employee health benefits in the United States.

The Responsible Additions and Increases to Sustain Employee (RAISE) Health Benefits Act, H.R. 1366, would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide the opportunity for responsible health savings to all American families, according to the congressional record summary.

“This bill is simply about putting the ‘flexibility’ back in ‘flexible spending accounts,’” or FSAs, said Rep. Stivers on Tuesday. “Healthcare costs are a burden for too many families and it is important that they have the ability to choose what is best for their families.”

H.R. 1366, the congressman said, would give Americans more discretion in how they pay for healthcare and permit them to save for future related expenses.

Among the 16 original cosponsors of H.R. 1366 are U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Mike Turner (R-OH) and Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), the bill’s lead original cosponsor.

“This is the type of common sense legislation that both sides of the aisle can support because FSAs are extremely popular and we have the chance to make them better,” Rep. Stivers said.

Rep. Gonzalez said that “enabling Americans to save for healthcare is a non-partisan issue” and H.R. 1366 would “give families the power of flexible financial options on a case-by-case basis.”

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced the RAISE Act in the Senate as S. 503 on Feb. 14 with U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

Under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, an annual cap was established for FSA contributions. The cap currently is $2,700, an amount that Rep. Stivers called arbitrary and much less than the nearly $5,600 a family spends annually on healthcare coverage.

If enacted, the legislation would raise the FSA cap to $5,000 and also would permit an extra $500 per each additional dependent above two dependents.

The legislation also would eliminate the law’s current “use it or lose it” rule whereby unused FSA funds are forfeited at the end of the year. Instead, the bill would allow any unused FSA funds to be rolled over in perpetuity. 

“Health care costs are one of the biggest financial challenges families face and flexible spending accounts are an important tool to help them save, especially for unexpected expenses,” said Sen. Blunt. “I’m encouraged by the bipartisan support for expanding FSAs, and hope this is an area where we can work together to make it easier for families to manage their health care costs.”

The RAISE Act has garnered an endorsement from the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO).

“The over 9,000 U.S. members of the AAO are encouraged that elements of the RAISE Act passed the House last summer, and we strongly encourage the 116th Congress to finish the job and give consumers greater control of their family’s healthcare spending,” said AAO President Dr. Brent Larson.

Rep. Stivers in July 2018 sponsored the U.S. House version of the same-named H.R. 6313 during the 115th Congress with cosponsor Rep. Gonzalez, but the measure never received a full House vote. The U.S. Senate version, S. 2802, sponsored in May 2018 by Sen. Blunt, never advanced out of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. 

Thus, this congressional session’s newly reintroduced H.R. 1366 has been referred to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee for consideration while S. 503 was referred to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.

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