There has been a minor disturbance in the Force this week when a Member of Congress went on Dr. Laura’s show (which I was not aware she had since I thought she quit radio a while ago. Is she back?) and complained that “government has to go out and buy [a] breast pump” for working moms and said the new rule was a tool of the far left to extend the concept of the nanny state to a truly ridiculous level.
Amazing, huh? Breastpumps as the new government cheese. As fabulous as that sounds to working, nursing mothers who know that breastpumps are REALLY expensive, it’s not, oh what’s the word? Factually correct.
The story makes it sound like every pregnant woman will walk out of her first OB visit with a packet of info about the dangers of alcohol and sushi while pregnant as well as a brand-spanking-new Pump-In-Style with a card saying “Pump it up! Love, Uncle Sam”. It sounds, on the surface, either spectacular or totally outrageous, depending on your position about the government’s role in supporting working families. But if you’re looking to whip yourself into either a lather of feminist glee or foaming-at-the-mouth libertarian outrage, you’re out of luck.
The real deal is that the IRS has ruled that breastfeeding supplies, including pumps, are now tax-deductible as medical supplies. That means that if you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for medical costs – that’s an account where you set aside pre-tax money that you earned all by yourself without help from anyone in the government (ahem) in a special account and it can only be released for qualified medical expenses such as co-pays, prescription drugs, medical and dental costs that insurance doesn’t cover , etc – you can use those funds to buy breastfeeding gear. Or, if you itemize your taxes, you can write off the cost of breastfeeding gear.
That means your breastpump is now in the same category, tax wise, as Lasik surgery or the 50% of the cost of a dental crown that your insurance wouldn’t cover. You have to pay for it but you can do it pre-tax or get a bit of the cost back if you itemize it. Not terribly dramatic, huh?
The lesson here is twofold. First: if you’re expecting, you can save a few bucks on pumping supplies. Hooray! Second: if a politician says something that sounds wildly outrageous, it probably is.