Today marks the one-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in the United States. Representatives John Curtis (R-UT), Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA), and Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) have reintroduced the bipartisan Protecting Individuals and Families Act, which permits millions of Americans to use their health savings accounts or flexible spending accounts to purchase face masks to protect against COVID-19. The legislation would also permit individuals to purchase hand sanitizers to stop the spread of the virus using these tax-advantaged savings accounts.
“The American people have endured more this year than most do in a lifetime – loss of loved ones, financial instability, and the crippling effects financial insecurity can have on an individual’s mental health. Getting this virus under control must continue to remain Congress’ top priority,” said Curtis. “A central part of our response needs to be equipping people with the tools they need to limit the spread of COVID-19 in their community. This bipartisan, common-sense legislation is an important step to putting this treacherous virus behind us, and I urge my colleagues to join me in advancing this proposal.”
“Last year, I urged the CDC to recommend that people wear face coverings in public, and I am pleased they did shortly after,” said Bera. “We should use all of our tools at our disposal to help people buy critical tools like masks and hand sanitizer—we know it will help us in the fight against COVID-19. And this bill—which would let people use their own FSA or HSA funds to purchase these items while we respond to the pandemic—is a great way to do just that, and I am proud to help lead this effort.”
The Coronavirus Aid, Response, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March 2020 and made permanent changes to health savings accounts. Individuals can now purchase over the counter medications using their health savings accounts, but face masks, specifically, do not count as eligible expenses under federal law.
The bipartisan Protecting Individuals and Families Act qualifies face masks and federally approved hand sanitizers to count as eligible HSA or FSA expenses through the duration of the Public Health Emergency. This change gives millions of Americans the option to take extra precautionary measures they believe are needed to keep themselves and their families safe during this uncertain time, which is especially important as vaccinations are made widely available and the country reopens.