February 11, 2011 — The cost of breast pumps and other lactation devices will now be tax deductible as medical expenses, the Internal Revenue Service announced on Thursday, Reuters reports (Stern/Heavey, Reuters, 2/10). The decision overturned long-held agency policy that flexible spending accounts could not be used to pay for breast pumps and other breastfeeding supplies because of the agency's stance that breastfeeding does not provide enough health benefits to qualify as a form of medical care (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/27/10).
Under the new policy, which is effective immediately and can be used for 2010 tax filings, women and families will be allowed to use pre-tax funds from their flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts to pay for pumps and supplies, which can cost as much as $1,000 annually. For women who do not have FSAs, the costs will be tax deductible if their total annual medical expenses exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income (Reuters, 2/10). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women breastfeed their infants for at least one year (Ohlemacher, AP/Washington Post, 2/10).
The AAP asked the IRS to change their policy last year, but the agency refused until it concluded that breast pumps are equivalent to obstetric care and affected a woman's body. Health experts worldwide agree that breastmilk is the best feeding option for infants because it provides life-saving antibodies to infants (Reuters, 2/10).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
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