Web Drugstore Serves HSA Holders

Published November 1, 2007

In mid-August, the Internet retailer drugstore.com unveiled a new online store designed for holders of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs): http://www.drugstore.com/hsa.

The new site identifies more than 3,000 HSA-eligible products, tracks purchases, and provides HSA-only receipts. It also offers additional resources to help users of consumer-driven health plans record their expenses for tax purposes.

Exante Financial Services, a UnitedHealth Group company based in Minnesota, partners with drugstore.com, allowing HSA holders to use the Exante Bank HSA debit card for purchases. That takes the guesswork out of identifying eligible products and allows users to easily track and record expenses.

“We strive to make saving and spending through the Exante Bank HSA simple, affordable, and accessible,” G. Todd Berkley, Exante’s vice president for account-based solutions, said in a news release. “Exante Bank’s partnership with drugstore.com achieves these goals.”

Long Time Coming

“The HSA Store takes the guesswork out of determining what qualifies, and allows drugstore.com to feature products and information of interest to individuals who are saving for their future good health,” said drugstore.com spokeswoman Anne Marshall.

“Because the online retail environment can consolidate eligible products all in one place, it is uniquely qualified to provide a convenient solution for HSA account holders,” Marshall added. “Further, the tracking tools provided by drugstore.com help customers fulfill the IRS guidelines requiring HSA account holders to retain proof of qualified purchases.”

Keeping good records is critical to HSA holders–which is why, with the launch of the online store, drugstore.com formed a relationship with the online health care organizer www.Doclopedia.com to provide free, online personal medical organizers to clients to record their medical histories, doctor visits, and prescription drug purchases. Users can connect to the HSA Tracker from the HSA Store homepage.

Roy Ramthun, president of HSA Consulting Services, a group based in Silver Spring, Maryland, said developments like these are what HSA holders have been waiting for.

“This is exactly what HSAs promised–electronic, paperless transactions–so it is a good thing,” Ramthun said.

Easy Features

“It also means the technology is progressing to allow ‘point-of-sale’ substantiation,” Ramthun said–meaning the ability to distinguish between non-HSA eligible purchases such as a bag of chips or a magazine and HSA-eligible ones, like aspirin, when using the same debit card. “The tracking features and receipts make record-keeping simple.

“Engaged consumers are likely to be more web-savvy, and this site will appeal to them,” Ramthun added. However, it’s important to provide excellent customer service and competitive prices, he said, because shoppers will have high expectations about both.

Public Perception

Twila Brase, president of the Citizens’ Council on Health Care, based in Minnesota, says the idea of an HSA store is more of a marketing improvement than a real innovation.

“In a free-market system, gimmicks can create a market by introducing customers to new products and services and companies they would have otherwise have missed, and that’s a good thing,” Brase said. If customers don’t like drugstore.com after they find it, they won’t stay with it, Brase said. If they do, both the buyer and the seller win.

“Although I don’t think the HSA Store represents a special deal for HSA policyholders, the HSA Store is the free market at work,” Brase said.

John R. Graham, director of health care studies at the Pacific Research Institute, a free-market think tank in San Francisco, said anything that helps HSA holders keep track of their spending for tax purposes helps.

“It is a great innovation, and others will follow,” Graham said. “If they provide good service, it will help to ‘lock in’ the value of HSAs in public opinion.”

Dr. Sanjit Bagchi ([email protected]) writes from India.