IRS Finally Agrees that Breastfeeding Is a Health Issue; Provides Breaks for Breast Pumps


The IRS today announced that an employee’s flexible spending account money, which is pre-tax money, can be used to purchase breastfeeding supplies: breast pumps and related lacation equipment. It’s good news, indeed. In October of last year we reported on breastfeeding supplies being shut out of the health reform’s list of health care “needs” covered by this type of tax shelter:

According to an article in the New York Times yesterday, “Denture wearers will get a tax break on the cost of adhesives to keep their false teeth in place. So will acne sufferers who buy pimple creams.”

And:

People whose children have severe allergies might even be allowed the break for replacing grass with artificial turf since it could be considered a medical expense.

But, notes the Times,nursing mothers will not be allowed to use their tax-sheltered health care accounts to pay for breast pumps and other supplies.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics even requested the IRS to change its policy on covering breast pumps last year. They were denied the request.

Initially the IRS determined that breastfeeding did not qualify because it did not have enough health benefits. From Forbes Magazine,

The IRS position was that breast pumps were feeding devices, not medical devices that would be covered as medical expenses.

That didn’t sit well with individuals, advocacy groups and legislators across the country, who wrote letters and campaigned against the decision. The message?

Breastfeeding is, without a doubt, an issue of medical care. The World Health Organization and our own Department of Health and Human Services, notes Momsrising.org, promote breastfeeding for its numerous health benefits. And the Food and Drug Adminisration (FDA) considers breastpumps to be medical devices. Therefore the tools needed to pump in order to ensure one’s baby receives breastmilk should fall under medical expenses.

Health reform did include a provision to ensure that mothers who work out of the home are provided with adequate time and space in which to pump. It makes sense, therefore, to cover the tools with which a working mother needs to do this in flexible spending account plans. Breast pumps typically cost over $200; with related supplies costs can go as high ast $1000, according to the Wall Street Journal. These costs can now be deducted from family’s taxable income. More information will ultimately be found in the Medical and Dental Expenses form.

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