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Michelle Ye Hee Lee: Did Santorum ‘invent’ health savings accounts? March 25, 2015

The Washington Post, March 7, 2015

“I know Al Gore invented the Internet, but I invented health savings accounts, believe it or not. I was the first member of Congress back in 1992 to introduce health savings accounts in the United States Congress.”

– Rick Santorum (R), speech at Iowa Agriculture Summit, March 7, 2015 

Santorum was among several Republican presidential hopefuls touting their record at the Iowa Agriculture Summit. Each spoke in a question-and-answer format with host Bruce Rastetter about a range of issues affecting the farming industry in Iowa, including the renewable fuel standard, genetically modified organisms and solar energy.

When asked about his stance on Obamacare, Santorum said he believes in consumer-based health care options, such as health savings accounts, that provide flexibility and “not have all your money and power go to Washington.”

Did Santorum “invent” health savings accounts? Was he the first member of Congress to introduce legislation to create them?

The Facts

In January 1992, Santorum introduced H.R. 4130, the Health Care Savings Plan Act of 1992. The legislation proposed an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code, which would allow individuals and families to set up medical savings accounts to make tax-free deposits that later could be used to buy medical services.

Under the plan, Americans could be self-insured for small medical expenditures while using third-party insurance options for more expensive medical procedures. The idea was to give people an option similar to individual retirement accounts, and encourage people to shop around for cheaper health care since they would pay for much of the costs out of their own pockets.

Santorum held a news conference announcing the bill on Feb. 5, 1992, with a coalition of House Republicans co-sponsoring the bill. The chief sponsors were Santorum and John Kasich of Ohio (now the state’s governor and potential 2016 opponent). Former House minority whip Newt Gingrich of Georgia, Richard Zimmer (N.J.), Dan Burton (Ind.) and Tom Delay (Texas) were among lawmakers unveiling the proposal that day. The bill was, indeed, the first proposal for medical savings accounts (MSAs) — precursor to the current health savings accounts (HSAs) — and it laid the groundwork for lawmakers to introduce alternative proposals for such accounts in 1992 and thereafter.

Continued…