Below is the response email I received from Congressman Paul Ryan.  In fact, Paul Ryan ALWAYS responds and even when I disagree with his response, at least he responds in a timely manner.  I’m sure once he receives the hard copy of the email, I’ll get a nice hard copy letter back from him.  I love how he (or his staff) always adds a link or a phone number to gather more information.

If I’m understanding his response, Ryan is trying to get a bill through that would offer much of what I thought the program should do.  What I don’t understand is if there’s a solution all ready out there, why isn’t someone acting on it?  I wish he had added the names of the other Congressmen who support the bill.  Anyway, I think I’ll ask for a copy of the bill and when I receive it (I think I can find it on the Congress Website, but I’m not sure), I’ll post it here.  That way, if you agree with it, you can pester you’re own Representative to get this out for a real vote.

I don’t think the picture of his letterhead will appear here, but trust me, this came from his office.

Dear Julie:

            Thank you for contacting me to express your interest in the health savings accounts created in the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, H.R.1.  This legislation was passed recently in the Congress and was signed into law on Monday December 8th, 2003.  I appreciate your taking the time to contact me on this important issue. 

            H.R. 1 makes a very important contribution to modernizing health care with the creation of health savings accounts (HSAs).  HSAs are a tool for individuals and employers to save and pay for their health care costs, including Medicare premiums and co-pays.  I co-authored the HSA provision passed in the Medicare bill and worked hard to see that the provision was included in the law because I believe they are very important to the future of health care.  The purpose of HSAs is to allow individuals, as opposed to insurance companies, to control their own health care dollars and manage their own health care needs.

 HSAs build off of the more-restrictive Archer Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) that are already available to certain qualifying individuals.  HSAs provide all Americans the opportunity to save and pay for their health care costs tax-free.  An HSA participant carries a high deductible insurance plan that is used primarily for serious illnesses, while routine medical costs, even Medicare costs, are paid for out of the individual’s HSA.  Individuals, employers, or even family members can contribute money to an HSA.  And, HSAs are portable, from job-to-job and into retirement.  Contributions are tax deductible for both employers and employees, and all account balances can be carried over each year.  Also, account growth and health expenditures are tax-free as well. 

For your reference, here’s a quick summary of HSAs:

A qualifying high deductible insurance has a minimum deductible of $1000 for an individual, and $2000 for a family.  Out-of-pocket costs must not exceed $5000 for an individual or $10,000 for a family.

Savings are portable, from job-to-job and into retirement.

Contributions can be made by individuals, employers and family members.

Annual tax-deductible contributions may be made up to the lesser of 100% of the deductible or $2,600 for singles and $5,150 for families.

Individuals age 55 and older can make catch-up contributions of up to $1,000. 

Savings can be used for qualified medical expenses, including retiree health insurance premiums, Medicare expenses, prescription drugs, long-term care services and insurance. 

HSAs give people control over their own health care dollars, encouraging them to make good consumer decisions and helping to hold down health care costs.

 HSAs became available in the market from insurance companies on January 1, 2004.  Some insurance companies are already offering HSAs while many others will be coming out with their products throughout the year. 

 In order to expand access to HSAs, I introduced, with several of my colleagues, H.R. 1872, the Health Coverage for the Uninsured Act, on April 27, 2005.   This bill tries to hone in on the problem of the uninsured where we can have the most impact: individuals who do not receive health care through their employer and small businesses that cannot afford to offer health care coverage.  The legislation encourages individuals to purchase a high deductible health plan (HDHP), and contribute to an HSA, by allowing for an above-the-line deduction of the health care premium.  Also, small businesses that offer high-deductible plans would receive a tax credit if they contribute to an employee’s Health Savings Account.  Finally, the legislation would assist low-income individuals in purchasing health insurance by providing a tax credit for the purchase of health insurance. 

 Lastly, you may find further information on HSAs on the Department of Treasury’s web site: http://www.treasury.gov/offices/public-affairs/hsa/.  If you have any further questions about HSAs, please feel free to contact me again.

            Thank you again for contacting me on this issue.  If I can be of further assistance to you regarding this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.  I am always happy to respond and be of service to you.

Sincerely,

Paul Ryan
Serving Wisconsin’s 1st District