Expanding Health Savings Accounts, WIC, and SNAP Will Help Underserved Communities in Fight Against COVID and Promote Long-Term Health
WASHINGTON, D.C. – New legislation introduced yesterday in the U.S. Senate by Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) would expand health savings accounts (HSA), health reimbursement arrangements and flexible spending accounts (FSA) to cover dietary supplements. This effort is part of a broader effort by the Natural Products Association (NPA) to expand access to nutritional supplements for underserved communities through programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
NPA’s effort comes as mounting evidence suggests a link between vitamin D deficiency and serious COVID-19 illnesses. Experts in the U.S. and around the world have urged policymakers to consider the benefits of vitamin D supplements to help support immune systems and prevent serious illnesses.
“We need to do more to ensure that our most vulnerable communities have access to nutritional supplements to support their health during this pandemic,” said Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., President and CEO of NPA. “This common sense solution is something that will benefit everyone, not only as we turn the corner in this pandemic but also in the long run. Thank you to Senator Cramer and his staff for their support and wanting to expand choices for hundreds of millions of Americans who use supplements to stay healthy in this challenging time.”
Nutritional supplements play an important role in supporting the health of millions of people in the United States and around the world, especially those who are from areas without adequate access to nutritious foods:
- Zinc deficiency can compromise immune function and increase the risk of infection, affecting an estimated 30% of the global population.
- A World Health Organization (WHO) report specifically zinc supplementation and immunity respiratory viruses in children.
- According to available data, 95 percent of adults and 98 percent of teens have an inadequate vitamin D intake and 61 percent of adults and 90 percent of teens do not get enough magnesium.
- More than 23 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in food deserts – areas that are more than a mile away from a supermarket.
“A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to include certain over-the-counter dietary supplement products as qualified medical expenses” (S. 1654) defines the term “dietary supplement product” as a nutritional product that is labeled with a statement describing how the product is intended to affect the structure or function of the human body or a statement characterizing the mechanism by which the product acts to maintain such structure or function.