Attention, all you people in medical savings accounts, the universally lauded reform that helps inject market forces into health care: ObamaCare is screwing you twice (in one night!):
Workers for years have been able to set aside tax-free dollars into an account that could be used within the year to pay for everything from insurance deductibles and eye surgery to Advil and allergy pills. But starting in 2011, the accounts will no longer pay for over-the-counter medicines unless a doctor writes a prescription for it. By 2013, contributions will be limited to $2,500.
Thanks, President Obama, you've chiseled down one of the few things that has helped to force doctors and patients to discuss pricing in medicine. For those of you not familiar with MSAs, participants park money in a tax-free account that is used to pay out of pocket medical costs. Insurers typically issue a charge card that allows users to pay for all health-care-related spending—office co-pays, prescriptions, basically any out of pocket cost. While I'm no fan of giving preference to one sort of spending over another (why is health care sacralized?), the system works swell all the way around partly because it allows users to keep track of costs and balances. And it lets users roll over unused money from one year to another, creating a potential pile of cash that can be used as you age and need more health care.
It'll be great to need a prescription to use the handy-dandy MSA credit/ATM card for over-the-counter meds next year. I especially look forward to the stories about kids calling their doctors on Sunday morning to get a note for Plan B, which can be quite pricey (I'm told!).
Are we on the brink of creating a system where the Doobie Bros. nightmare vision of a world in which "the music is the doctor"? That might work for minor aches and pains, but I'm pretty sure I'm gonna need some pills to cure my ills. If ObamaCare required a prescription to listen to the Doobies, I might be able to get behind it, but until then, I'm hoarding Advil.