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Perseverance pays off in HSA reform battle


EMPLOYERS' LOBBYING EFFORT in Congress to win passage of legislation to make health savings accounts work better is a fine example of the importance of perseverance.

As we report on page 1, federal legislators included a series of HSA reforms as part of a broad tax bill that received congressional approval during the closing hours of the current session of Congress.

The HSA package did not come out of nowhere. It is the same one cleared by the House Ways and Means Committee in September that was given up for dead by some Washington observers following the November elections that put Democrats in line to take control of Congress.

The reasoning for the gloomy assessment is that, in general, Democrats have opposed HSAs and would resist efforts to expand them. What those pundits didn't understand is the nature of politics. Yes, congressional Democrats generally don't like HSAs, but there are many legislative proposals they do want.

So what happened was simple. It is called horse trading. The Democrats relented on the HSA legislation, while Republicans gave in on some proposals, most notably federal support of health care benefits promised to retired coal miners.

We'll leave it to others to say whether such deals are good or bad policy. But we know that the HSA changes would have had no chance to be included in the broader tax bill had not business lobbying groups kept up the pressure on legislators to fight for their inclusion.

The HSA changes, while modest, are welcome and needed. Among other things, they will allow bigger contributions to HSAs, increasing the likelihood that employees will not only have enough to pay for current uncovered medical care expenses, but also enough to build up savings they will need to meet future health care expenses.

The saying it isn't over until it's over certainly is true, and that fighting for a good cause--and not giving up--can lead to success.