As employees complete their annual benefits registration, we begin to learn some of the real impacts of the Affordable Care Act (or ObamaCare) on the fiscally responsible.
The first new restriction actually went into effect at the start of this year--and I didn't even know it. Were you aware that you are no longer allowed use Flex Accounts or Health Savings Accounts to purchase over-the-counter medications? Looks like the wife and I will be spending a little time in Federal Prison soon--since we were both using those funds for cough and cold and headache medications--although I doubt we won't be alone in that violation. Apparently there is a form that your doctor can fill out saying he is directing you to take those pills--thereby allowing you to use the funds--but isn't the point of over-the-counter medications to allow you to treat a minor problem WITHOUT going to see the doctor? And how do such office visits to get a stupid form filled out lower the cost of health care?
The second effect is a big one for us. There is now a cap on the amount that you can designate to a Flex Account. It's 25-hundred dollars--after previously being unlimited. My wife has a rather expensive surgery coming up in the new calendar year--and we had hoped to save just a little bit of money by designating her out of pocket cost for that operation to Flex. But now, that isn't going to happen. Instead, most of our portion of the bill will be paid with after-tax dollars. Again, I have to ask, how is that making health care more affordable?
And as we lose that Flex Account benefit, the ACA will increase the threshold to deduct medical expenses on our income taxes. Starting next year, your total medical expenses will have to exceed ten percent of your gross income before you can write them off. In the past, the threshold was 7.5%--there were a couple of years where we were able to claim that deduction--and there was a good chance we could have met that requirement again next year. Now (barring an additional expensive procedure or emergency) we aren't going to make it. I guess we just weren't supposed to enjoy more affordable health care.
On a positive note, we probably won't have to purchase any medical devices anytime soon. The new 2.3% excise tax goes into effect on those items next year. I'm sure that will make things like bed lifts and wheelchairs much more affordable.
I guess Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi really was right when she famously said that "We need to pass the bill, so we can find out what's in it".