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Rules and Regulations Improvements: IRS Allows Health Savings Account Spending for Breastfeeding Supplies

Partners and breastfeeding advocates in Washington State work to provide families with environments that make it easy to breastfeed. State and national breastfeeding coalitions work toward changes to rules and regulations that promote breastfeeding.

Last month the Internal Revenue Service adopted a new policy to allow breastfeeding women to use their tax-fee health spending accounts to purchase pumps and other lactation supplies. Supplies for the first year of breastfeeding an infant can range from $500 to $1,000 for a pump, storage containers for breast milk and other supplies.

The new policy is a reversal of an earlier decision in which the IRS ruled that lactation supplies were not medically necessary. US Senators and Representatives joined with breastfeeding advocacy organizations like the Unites States Breastfeeding Committee to protest the IRS ruling and get the policy changed. See the timeline of letters and public comment.

IRS Announcement 2011-14 concludes that breastfeeding supplies can be purchased with pre-tax Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSAs) Heath Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). According to the announcement, the IRS had determined that “breast pumps and supplies that assist lactation are medical care under § 213(d) of the Internal Revenue Code because, like obstetric care, they are for the purpose of affecting a structure or function of the body of the lactating woman.” The IRS plans to update Publication 502 which outlines allowable medical and dental expenses for use in preparing tax returns. Families who do not use flexible spending accounts can deduct breastfeeding expenses if they itemize and if their medical expenses exceed 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income.

As noted in the State Plan, breastfeeding provides the best nutrition for infants and reduces the life long risk of many chronic diseases. During infancy, breastfed children are healthier, requiring fewer health care costs. According to a USDA study, if 75% of infants were breastfed until six months of age, and 50% were still breastfed at six months, it would save an estimated $3.6 billion in health care costs. But many women return to work before six months after giving birth. Working away from home while breastfeeding is challenging, and this change in the regulations makes breastfeeding while working a little easier.

Partners

Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington

Target Audience

Employees with Flexible Spending Accounts

Region

Statewide

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