IRS Cuts Babies a Break

Comments (2)
Thursday, February 24, 2011

Who says the IRS is a bastion of heartless, out-of-touch bureaucrats?

Not us. At least, not this week.

Earlier this month, the IRS announced that it was reversing an earlier decision not to include breast milk pumps on the list of items eligible for reimbursement through flexible-spending healthcare accounts. The feds had initially decided that breast pumps should not be eligible for coverage under the accounts—which allow consumers to set aside pre-tax dollars for certain medical costs—because it did not consider breast milk to be a "medical necessity."

The American Academy of Pediatrics, among other health organizations, begged to differ, citing studies linking breastfeeding to lower rates of ear infections, bacterial meningitis, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, diabetes, asthma and obesity, among other health problems, in babies. In addition, research suggests that women who nurse are at lower risk for certain cancers, as well as hip fractures and osteoporosis.

Joining the AAP in pressing the IRS to add breast pumps to the list of eligible items was a group of U.S. senators and congresspeople—among them, Rep. John Olver of Massachusetts' 1st district—who late last year wrote to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman urging the change. (See "Breast Milk Pumps: Not Deductible," Feb. 3, 2011,

Those efforts have paid off. On Feb. 10, the IRS announced that it "has concluded that breast pumps and supplies that assist lactation are medical care & because, like obstetric care, they are for the purpose of affecting a structure or function of the body of the lactating woman," and therefore would qualify as deductible medical expenses and reimbursable items under health savings accounts. The ruling applies to expenses incurred in 2010 and going forward.

The AAP is among the groups applauding the IRS' change of heart. "Now, more women will be able to pass on the health benefits of breastfeeding to their babies, which include protections against asthma and other respiratory illnesses, bacterial and viral infections, and obesity, among other ailments," O. Marion Burton, president of the medical group, told the New York Times.

A 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 75 percent of new mothers in the U.S. initiate breastfeeding, but that "rates of breastfeeding at 6 and 12 months as well as rates of exclusive breastfeeding at 3 and 6 months remain stagnant and low. & High breastfeeding initiation rates show that most mothers in the U.S. want to breastfeed and are trying to do so. However, even from the very start, mothers may not be getting the breastfeeding support they need. Low breastfeeding rates at 3, 6, and 12 months illustrate that mothers continue to face multiple barriers to breastfeeding."

Advocates hope that the IRS decision will make breast pumps more affordable to more families, removing at least one of those barriers.

Comments (2)
Post a Comment

Hey at least someone is getting a break. Cant wait to see who is next.

Posted by Joe Mastriano CPA on 2.23.11 at 11:57

This is a great example of what happens when a federal bureaucrat is given the legal authority to make or influence medical decisions 'for the common good'. Fortunately on this matter they backed down, however this was a bureaucratic 'decision' -- it's not a change in the law (as it should be), and it's not subject to the law should a future bureaucrat make another 'decision'.

Posted by Keith Robieux on 2.28.11 at 7:40



New User/Guest?

Find it Here:
search type:
search in:

« Previous   |   Next »
Print Email RSS feed

From Our Readers
Baker: More of the Same; Props to Rohmann; Props to Rohmann
Between the Lines: A Gun Owner’s Resentment
Why make it expensive and difficult for law-abiding residents to possess firearms?
Sorry, Nixon
If the impeachment of our 37th president showed that the system works, what does Obama’s continued political survival say about it?
The Zipcar Is Here
Car sharing takes hold in the Valley.
Under the Microscope
Did ex-WSU president Evan Dobelle use university resources to support an identity as well as a lifestyle?
From Our Readers
Casino Opposition “Selfish”; Cut Foreign Aid, Not Our Military
Between the Lines: Deval’s Capital Management
He can rehab his office, but what about his legacy?
From Snowden to the Pentagon Papers
Can student interest in civics be rekindled?