The U.S. Senate is taking new steps to ensure that vitamins, minerals, herbs, and specialty supplements, like prescription drugs, will be covered by health insurance plans, the Dietary Supplement Information Bureau™ reported recently. Through the new "Dietary Supplement Tax Fairness Act of 2001" (Bill S.1330) introduced on August 2, 2001 by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), dietary supplements, medical foods and foods for special dietary needs would be treated as medical expenses under the U.S. tax code. This would mean that when these products are offered through a health insurance plan, the costs would be tax deductible for employers and excluded from taxable income for employees. In introducing this legislation, Senator Tom Harkin said that giving dietary supplements parity with prescription drugs under the U.S. tax code will advance sound healthcare policy. "Our current policy is unfair and is failing to take full advantage of the potential to improve health and hold down health care costs through preventive health care practices available to consumers," he explained. "Bringing the code up to date to recognise and allow for this important need for wellness and health promotion is an important step for ward to overall sound healthcare policy." Along with giving consumers a tax deduction for using dietary supplements, S.1330 recognises the importance of paying for the dietary needs of people who have been diagnosed with specific metabolic disorders and medical conditions. Accordingly, the legislation would allow foods for dietary needs to be considered a medical expense for the management of diabetes, autoimmune disorders and chronic inflammatory conditions. Parents would be financially covered to pay for the dietary needs of children who have been diagnosed with metabolic disorders and autism. "Giving a tax deduction for these valuable products will go a long way towards holding down the nation's health care costs through preventive health care practices that are available to all consumers," said Jerry Cott, Ph.D., a leading neuropsychopharmacologist formerly with the National Institute of Mental Health and now a member of the scientific advisory board of the Dietary Supplement Information Bureau™.