New Moms

Acne Cream a Medical Expense, Breast Pump Not

| by Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog

The New York Times just published an article on whether breast pumps can qualify as a medical expense for the purpose of tax sheltered flex spending accounts.

As the headline reads, acne cream made the cut. The article explains:

That is because the Internal Revenue Service has ruled that breast-feeding does not have enough health benefits to quality as a form of medical care.

Those regulations are part of the health care overhaul, which takes effect in January. They affect flexible spending accounts, which allow millions of Americans to set aside part of their pretax earnings to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses.

While breast-feeding supplies weren’t allowed under the old regulations either, one major goal of the health care overhaul was to control medical costs by encouraging preventive procedures like immunizations and screenings.

Despite a growing body of research indicating that the antibodies passed from mother to child in breast milk could reduce disease among infants — including one recent study that found it could prevent the premature death of 900 babies a year — the I.R.S. has denied a request from the American Academy of Pediatrics to reclassify breast-feeding costs as a medical care expense.

In some respects, the biggest roadblock for mothers’ groups and advocates of breast-feeding is one of their central arguments: nursing a child is beneficial because it is natural.

I.R.S. officials say they consider breast milk a food that can promote good health, the same way that eating citrus fruit can prevent scurvy. But because the I.R.S. code considers nutrition a necessity rather than a medical condition, the agency’s analysts view the cost of breast pumps, bottles and pads as no more deserving of a tax break than an orange juicer.

What say you? Should pumps count as preventative medical supplies for the purpose of flex spending accounts?