Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | January 27, 2011

Really, Moms?

Saw this via a friend’s Facebook post:

Really, IRS?

Believe it or not, the folks at the IRS think they know more about breastfeeding than doctors and medical researchers.

According to an article in the New York Times, the Internal Revenue Service has determined that breastfeeding “does not have enough health benefits to qualify as a form of medical care.”  Therefore, women cannot count expenses for breastfeeding supplies in their tax-sheltered healthcare spending accounts.

In doing so, the IRS has ignored the guidance of experts at the Department of Health & Human Services and World Health Organization who are actively promoting breastfeeding because of its significant health benefits for mothers and children.

Sign our petition reminding the IRS to leave medicine to the experts!

Oh, for FSM’s sake; get real, people!

First of all, you will never — by which I mean not EVER — find someone more supportive of breastfeeding than I am. I nursed my last kid for two whole years, and the only reason I gave up the first time was because there were two of them (kids, that is). So don’t go trying to lump me in with those terrible, mean, unsupportive  doctors who are sucking at the teat (pardon the choice of idiom) of the amoral, soulless formula manufacturers.

The IRS may have worded the decision poorly, but they are not making medical decisions. They’re not even expressing a medical opinion. They are drawing a line that needs to be drawn between what constitutes “medical care” and “being healthy.”

Exercise is healthy, so gym memberships, personal trainers, and exercise equipment should be deductible. Never mind that all you need to walk is a pair of shoes, and even the most audacious accountant won’t let you claim your sneakers as a medical deduction.

Vegetables and fruits are healthier than processed foods, but you don’t get to deduct your produce bill. Stress can cause high blood pressure; massages are relaxing, which relieves stress, so shouldn’t you be able to deduct your spa tab?

This is the kind of trouble we run into when no one understands that the words “Health Care” don’t actually mean a damn thing. Doctors provide MEDICAL CARE.

This hullabaloo is the result of our ridiculously complex tax code that makes “medical expenses” deductible, thus creating tremendous incentives to try and deduct anything that can be connected in any way, shape, or form to “health”.

Here’s what we need to do:

  • Reform the tax code so that the only deducible medical expenses are those that are incurred for actually diagnosing and treating a disease.
  • Either increase the “standard deduction” OR institute an across-the-board new standard “Health” deduction intended to cover the health clubs, massages, breast pumps, and so forth. Perhaps some people will actually use the extra funds to make healthier choices at the grocery store.

While we’re at it, I’m not averse to re-tooling the whole damn thing to make it both simpler and more rational. Granted I’m inviting another surge of unemployment among the gargantuan tax-preparation industry, although the internet seems to be chipping away at that task all on its own.

Still, I never thought I’d find myself agreeing with the IRS. I suppose there’s a first time for everything.



  1. Flat tax.

    No deductions, everyone pays 10% across the board, regardless of income level.

    When my legion of flying monkeys completes my quest for world domination, that’s how it’ll be.

  2. At the university I currently work at, we have a medical centre and a health centre on campus. I can see why many students confuse the two.

    And on the tax front, I am moving to the USA in a little over a week, and two days have been set aside for me in the first week to get tax sorted out. I am expecting a bit of a headache.

  3. You won’t get an argument from me that the tax code is messed up. HOWEVER, I think you missed the entire point of this.

    This is not about deductions. This is about healthcare savings accounts (HSAs). What you can and cannot spend this money on. The things in both of these groups overlap, but there are lots of things in the HSAs that you can’t deduct as a medical expense.

    And for these accounts, the IRS has said that under no circumstances is a breast pump rental or purchase to be considered allowable. Never never never. Which totally ignores the fact that breast pumps are *frequently* used to treat medical conditions such as low milk supply in the Mom. They are also used to get breast milk to babies who cannot get it in the normal way for, you know, a *medical* reason. Cleft palate, tongue tie, nicu stay, etc.

    The normal human condition is that a mother breastfeeds her baby. If that is not possible for a medical reason, and a breast pump gets breast milk into baby, then it should be considered medical equipment. And as such it should be eligible for purchase with HSA money. What the IRS is saying is that breast milk substitutes (formula) are so outstandingly wonderful that not being able to breastfeed is no big deal. And that’s bull.

    Crooked teeth are not life threatening, and in most cases correcting them is cosmetic. But you can use this money for braces without question. You don’t need $800 glasses to see, but you can get those high fashion frames with this money. You can even use the money for food and a gym membership, as long as it is part of a prescribed treatment for obesity.

    They drew a line, but it’s in the wrong place. And it shows just how screwed up our society is that we can’t consider the inability to breastfeed a medical problem.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by rlbates, Skye Amber. Skye Amber said: Really, Moms? « Musings of a Dinosaur […]

  5. Sorry, Amy. No go. Nutrition is not medical care.

    If you can’t breastfeed, you can’t deduct the cost of formula, bottles, nipples and so forth. If you don’t have teeth and have to puree your food in order to survive, you can’t deduct the cost of your blender or food processor.

    I think the problem isn’t that you can’t use HSA money for breast pumps, but that you CAN use it for food and exercise for “obesity treatment”. The IRS needs to push that line a lot farther.

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