The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is encouraging consumers to support the “Responsible Additions and Increases to Sustain Employee (RAISE) Health Benefits Act of 2015” (HR 1185). According to the AAO, the bill would significantly improve benefits under the existing Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plans offered by many U.S. employers.

FSA accounts allow consumers to set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for many medical and healthcare expenses not covered by insurance.

Introduced by Representatives Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-New Mexico), the bill would give consumers more control over out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures by offering more flexibility, planning options, and financial benefits. Under the RAISE Health Benefits Act of 2015, families and individuals will be able to:

  • Save more by increasing the annual FSA cap to $5,000 per year from the current $2,550
  • Add an additional $500 to the FSA savings cap for each dependent above two dependents
  • Better prepare for expected and unanticipated healthcare costs by carrying over unused funds

Hundreds of thousands of individuals and families depend on medical FSAs to cover the costs of anticipated and unplanned out-of-pocket healthcare costs, including orthodontic treatment.

“The changes in health care through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are not keeping pace with the cost of health care, particularly oral health care which largely isn’t covered for adults,” says Grisham.

“No matter what kind of health care arenas you’re working in,” she says, “there’s always a gap, there’s always a place where people don’t have access to benefits… or the benefit is taxed or minimized, which means that we never give a patient or health care consumer everything they need. [The RAISE bill] gives you a tax-free incentive to save to meet those health care expenses,” she adds.

“There’s currently a $2,550 annual limit on the funds that an employee can put into their FSA, which does not take into account the size of a family or the cost of living with chronic health complications,” adds Morris N. Poole, DDS, president of the AAO. “That leaves consumers with tough choices, especially those with large families. It often comes down to forgoing necessary orthodontic, vision, or other types of care.”

Even more limiting, the ACA states that unused FSA funds set aside in 1 year will be inaccessible under a “use-it-or-lose it” policy. While this provision was amended in 2013 allowing families to roll over $500 to the next calendar year, it doesn’t completely eliminate the “use it or lose it” concern that many have about the current plan. The RAISE Health Benefits Act would allow families to carry over their full FSA balance every year.

“This is a life-changing proposition,” says Poole. “It will relieve hardworking families of the stress of having to use up FSA dollars by the end for the year, and opens up more opportunities for long term savings when the time comes to begin orthodontic treatment or other uncovered medical needs.”

There are currently 54 sponsors of the bill in Congress, and the AAO is urging its members, consumers, and all orthodontic patients to write their Congressmen and Congresswomen to support the RAISE Health Benefits Act. It is a vital step in ensuring that families have options when it comes to planning for and providing for medical and orthodontic care for their loved ones.

The AAO recommends consumers take these steps to show support:

  • First, click here to learn if your Congressional representative is already co-sponsoring this bill
  • Second, voice your support. Call or e-mail the representative in your Congressional district to let them know you’d like to support the “RAISE Health Benefits Act of 2015” (HR 1185)
  • Third, tell friends and family members to contact their legislators to encourage them to support the RAISE Health Benefits Act of 2015.