Breast pumps won't get tax breaks

[deleted account] ( 7 moms have responded )


IRS says they can't use tax-sheltered health accounts to buy pumps, supplies



Oct. 27, 2010, 12:08AM


According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

• Birth: About 75 percent of the 4.3 million mothers who gave birth in 2007 started out breast-feeding.

• 6 months: By the time the baby was 6 months, the portion dropped to 43 percent.

• 1 year: On the child's first birthday, 22 percent continued to breast-feed.

Denture wearers will get a tax break on the cost of adhesives to keep their false teeth in place. So will acne sufferers on the purchase of pimple creams.

People whose children have severe allergies might even be allowed the break for replacing grass with artificial turf since it could be considered a medical expense.

But nursing mothers will not be allowed to use their tax-sheltered health care accounts to pay for breast pumps and other supplies.

That is because the Internal Revenue Service has ruled that breast-feeding does not have enough health benefits to quality as a form of medical care.

The new regulations, stemming from the health care overhaul, take effect in January for flexible spending accounts, which allow millions of Americans to set aside part of their pretax earnings to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses.

One major goal of the health care overhaul was to control medical costs by encouraging preventive medical procedures like immunizations and screening tests. Despite a growing body of research indicating that the antibodies passed from mother to child in breast milk could reduce disease among infants — including one recent study that found it could prevent the premature death of 900 babies a year - the IRS has denied a request from the American Academy of Pediatrics to reclassify breast-feeding costs as a medical care expense.

Just like a juicer

IRS officials say they consider breast milk a food that can promote good health, the same way that eating citrus fruit can prevent scurvy. But because the IRS 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.

Many mothers' groups and medical experts say breast milk provides both nutrition and natural supplements that prevent disease and would generally like to see its use expanded. Hospital accreditation groups have been prodding hospital maternity wards to encourage parents to feed only breast milk until a child is 6 months old.

The new health law does include one breakthrough for nursing mothers: a mandate that they be permitted unpaid breaks to use breast pumps. Breast-feeding advocates say they will return to Congress to get a tax break, too.

$500 to $1,000 a year

To breast-feed once they return to work, many mothers need to use pumps to extract milk, which can be chilled and bottle-fed to the child later. The cost of buying or renting a breast pump and accessories needed to store milk runs about $500 to $1,000 for most mothers over the course of a year, according to the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee, a nonprofit advocacy group. Lactation consultants, who can cost several hundred dollars, also would not be an eligible expense.

Roy Ramthun, a former Treasury Department official, said that tax officials' reluctance to classify those costs as medical expenses stemmed from a fear that the program might be abused.

"They get very uneasy about anything that smacks of food because they fear it will open up all sorts of exceptions," said Ramthun, who runs a consulting company that specializes in health care savings accounts. "It's a matter of cost and of protecting the integrity of the tax code."

Bills introduced last year by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., would have allowed nursing mothers to claim the tax break. But breast-feeding advocates say that effort, like many before, was undone by a variety of economic and cultural factors.

"Everyone says they support breast-feeding, but getting businesses and Congress to act on it has been surprisingly difficult," said Barbara Emanuel, executive director of the breast-feeding advocacy group La Leche League International. "We get resistance from the formula companies and cultural resistance, so it can be hard to get nursing mothers the support that everyone agrees they deserve."


[deleted account]

What a bunch of bullshit! Mother's who choose to breastfeed should ABSOLUTELY get the tax break. What a wonderful way to encourage breastfeeding without putting down the mom's who choose to bottle feed. I think this COULD be a positive step forward IF they can get it passed.

Julie - posted on 10/27/2010




My baby was born at 26 weeks and I HAD to have a hospital grade pump. Sadly, I only made it 14 weeks, but I really think that is why he is thriving so well! I'm convinced it was medically necessary!

For some reason, I think I got my insurance to pay part/all of the rental, but I don't recall ... maybe it was and will change.

Anyhow, this is ridiculous. Denture cream is covered but not a pump? Why don't those without teeth subsist on Ensure and pureed foods? Isn't having fake teeth ultimately about food and looking better? How is that a medical necessity? Ugh. I'll bet the formula companies have a rather large lobby and makers of breast pumps don't. I really wish that law-making really WAS about what is best for the people (even the bitty little baby ones) instead of who has the best/most lobbiests and budget.


View replies by

Kimberly - posted on 10/27/2010




I actually found a $1000 Medela Lactina on wheels at that-on my local Freecycle group after I'd been paying $60 a month to rent the hospital grade. Awesome grab!

Becky - posted on 10/27/2010




I don't know. I can see their reasoning. If they pass this, then are mothers who have to formula feed for medical reasons, or who have to feed their babies specialized and expensive formula going to want a tax break as well? Or do they already get one - in which case, this should definitely be available.
The other thing is, not every mother needs to pump, but some might buy the pump anyways just for the tax break. I have an expensive pump, but between my 2 kids, I've used it under 50 times, I'm sure! I just never needed to pump that much. So I don't really feel like I should qualify for a tax break. There are other mothers who I think should - moms of preemies or sick babies in the nicu, mom who can't actually breastfeed for some reason, and moms who have to return to work before the baby is 6 months (or even a year.) But I don't know how hard it would be to put guidelines like that in place and make sure no one was abusing it?
Sorry if this is a little disjointed - I'm sick and have a sick kid!

Join Circle of Moms

Sign up for Circle of Moms and be a part of this community! Membership is just one click away.

Join Circle of Moms