Breast Pumps Not Tax-Sheltered

Breast pumps not tax-sheltered. Thanks to health care reform, individuals can now take care of personal health needs with IRS tax-sheltered flex accounts. Unless they’re breast-feeding moms.

The accounts cover things like denture adhesive, acne medication, and astroturf for allergy-prone kids. However, they exclude breast pumps, a groundbreaking innovation which has allowed countless working moms to feed their infants healthy breast milk. Because despite studies showing the benefits of breastfeeding, breast pumps, which can cost upwards of $500, aren’t considered preventative care by the IRS, which is apparently now moonlighting as a medical approval board.

The Internal Revenue Service has ruled that breast-feeding does not have enough health benefits to quality as a form of medical care. With all the changes, the health care overhaul will bring in the coming years. It nonetheless will leave those regulations intact when new rules for flexible spending accounts go into effect in January. Those allow millions of Americans to set aside part of their pretax earnings to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses.

A similar debate has been roiling over whether birth control qualifies as preventative care — (actually, it defines preventative, but the government doesn’t seem to think so). 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. However, 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.