Why is breastfeeding not considered a medical necessity?

With the current US administration undertaking the reform of healthcare in this past year, including eliminating pre-existing condition clauses meant to deny coverage, you’d think the US would be making progress towards supporting breastfeeding too. Well, it seems that is not yet the case… Even though some laws have been passed to allow more women to breastfeed in public, get a dedicated place to pump at work and get some unpaid breaks to do so, there is still a long way to go. One big sign that our government doesn’t believe in the “higher powers” of breastmilk? A breastpump is still not tax deductible, whether it is a manual or an electric breast pump.

Most US companies offer flexible spending accounts to their employees, allowing them to pay for their medical expenses with pre-tax dollars. Doctor co-pays, prescription co-pays, hospital bills and most dental procedures are covered. Breastpumps? Nope. I see why the IRS would be worried of opening Pandora’s box if breastpumps were a tax-deductible purchase. Moms who can’t breastfeed or decide not to breastfeed would complain that infant formula is a medical necessity in their case and that it should also be tax deductible. I bet the infant formula manufacturers constantly lobby Congress to get it on the list! But the issue would then be to wonder, is manufactured formula the same as breastmilk, when most of us know that both foods are not, and just can’t be the equal.

Why should the IRS consider breastmilk a medical necessity, deemed worthy of a tax exemption? Because liquid gold has been shown in many studies to:

- reduce your baby’s risk to catch many illnesses, or prevent them from getting as sick
- be more gentle on your baby’s digestive system
- can prevent your baby from developing food allergies
- contain growth factors that ensure the best development of your baby’s organs
- may boost your child’s intelligence (who doesn’t like that reason?)
- may protect your child from obesity
- offers plenty of health benefits to mom too!

I previously made my own list of the 10 things people don’t tell you about breastfeeding, but the list above has a little more scientific value, in case you needed that!

Medela breast pump, Pump in Style

Breastmilk still provides the most complete and optimal mix of nutrients, fluids and calories only a human being can provide to another. And a breast pump will help a mom continue to breastfeed her baby even after she returns to work. Using a breast pump, a mom doesn’t have to make a hard choice between breastmilk or formula, working or staying at home. With most breast pumps ranging from $100 to almost $300, a tax break of 10 to 20% would be nice. I was lucky enough to get my Medela Pump in Style from a family member and I loved it, using it several times a day for over a year for each of my boys. However most insurance companies don’t cover the cost or subsidize the purchase of breastpumps. Again, they don’t consider it a medical necessity.

To all of the health insurance companies and the IRS, I’d like to ask: why is Viagra only requires a co-pay and is tax deductible (= medical necessity) but a breastpump isn’t??? My guess is that the IRS and the insurance companies are run by older men, instead of real moms. Sometimes, I really feel that our boobs are underappreciated for what they can really do. I hope one day I get to see a change in our corporate world and government, and for someone to stand up and acknowledge that “breastmilk feeds life”. Liquid gold it is!

What’s your personal take on this issue?

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6 responses to “Why is breastfeeding not considered a medical necessity?

  1. HAHA! I am dying at that pic!

    Wait…what?!?! Viagra is covered by insurance?! Why didn’t anyone tell me? ;-P j/k I think that’s crazy and it may have to do with the pharma lobby just as much as insurance companies being run by older men.

  2. “My guess is that the IRS and the insurance companies are run by older men, instead of real moms. Sometimes, I really feel that our boobs are underappreciated for what they can really do”
    True! and in the same line are pre-natal pills that cost an arm and a leg but are knowingly good for you and your unborn child. Sometimes these priorities baffle me but then like you say, obviously it’s not some mom up there making decisions like these.

  3. I have a 3 month old and my breast pump (the Medela InStyle) was a “gift” from my health ins carrier (Unity) after I completed their “Nine Months and More” program. Which basically entailed going to all my prenatal appts, one post-natal appt, and a short phone interview at the beginning of my pregnancy. Easy! So I am happy to report that some insurance carriers have their act together.

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