• N. Rios

CARES Act: What You Need to Know

Updated: Apr 9



The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) signed into law Friday, March 27th contains important provisions that will affect HSAs, HRAs and FSAs.

Effective immediately:

•HSA-qualified health plans can now cover telehealth and other remote care service expenses below the HDHP statutory deductible limit, or at no or low-cost sharing, without affecting an account holder’s ability to continue contributing to their HSA. This provision will last until December 31, 2021.

•Over-the-counter drugs and medicines can be paid for or reimbursed through an FSA, HRA or HSA without a doctor’s prescription.

•Menstrual care products are now considered a qualified medical expense and are eligible for payment or reimbursement through an FSA, HRA or HSA. All expenses incurred after December 31, 2019 qualify, and the provision has no expiration date.

Please see below for additional Q&A:

When can consumers begin to purchase these products with their benefits cards?

Although this provision was signed into law, consumers cannot immediately make these purchases using their benefit card.

The week of April 6, 2020, the Special Interest Group for IIAS Standards (SIGIS) board votes to make these products eligible within IIAS, the industry-standard inventory coding system for pharmacy point-of-sale (POS) systems. We fully expect these changes to be adopted, and SIGIS will publish the revised Eligible Product List (EPL) to include OTC products the week of April 15. After April 15, merchants will begin to adopt the new standards for OTC items. Some merchants update their inventory monthly, quarterly or annually, so adoption dates will vary. As each merchant adopts the new standards, consumers can purchase OTC items through them with a card swipe. Menstrual products will be added the EPL the week of May 15, with auto-substantiation following.

Can consumers seek reimbursement for these products in the meantime?

Yes. If consumers attempt to purchase these items before systems have been updated and the transaction is denied, they can submit a claim for reimbursement. In addition, this provision is effective for any qualified purchases made after December 31, 2019. Consumers can, therefore, submit claims for reimbursement for purchases made between that date and when this law passed.

What new products does this provision include?

An estimate of approximately 17,500 new OTC products will become eligible with this change. These include OTC items that were removed from eligibility with the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as items that have been submitted for or rejected from eligibility since. Because menstrual care products have never been eligible with tax-advantaged accounts, we don’t have a firm estimate on the number of those items currently. We will update you when we have a better idea around May 15.


OTC Medication Flyer


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