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Message To The IRS: “Leave Medicine To The Experts”

I saw this via a friend’s Facebook post:

Really, IRS?

Believe it or not, the folks at the IRS think they know more about breastfeeding than doctors and medical researchers.

According to an article in the New York Times, the Internal Revenue Service has determined that breastfeeding “does not have enough health benefits to qualify as a form of medical care.”  Therefore, women cannot count expenses for breastfeeding supplies in their tax-sheltered healthcare spending accounts.

In doing so, the IRS has ignored the guidance of experts at the Department of Health & Human Services and World Health Organization who are actively promoting breastfeeding because of its significant health benefits for mothers and children.

Sign our petition reminding the IRS to leave medicine to the experts!

Oh get real, people!

First of all, you will never — by which I mean not EVER — find someone more supportive of breastfeeding than I am. I nursed my last kid for two whole years, and the only reason I gave up the first time was because there were two of them (kids, that is). So don’t go trying to lump me in with those terrible, mean, unsupportive doctors who are sucking at the teat (pardon the choice of idiom) of the amoral, soulless baby formula manufacturers.

The IRS may have worded the decision poorly, but they are not making medical decisions. They’re not even expressing a medical opinion. They are drawing a line that needs to be drawn between what constitutes “medical care” and “being healthy.”

Exercise is healthy, so gym memberships, personal trainers, and exercise equipment should be deductible. Never mind that all you need to walk is a pair of shoes, and even the most audacious accountant won’t let you claim your sneakers as a medical deduction.

Vegetables and fruits are healthier than processed foods, but you don’t get to deduct your produce bill. Stress can cause high blood pressure and massages are relaxing which relieve stress, so shouldn’t you be able to deduct your spa tab?

This is the kind of trouble we run into when no one understands that the words “health care” don’t actually mean a darn thing. Doctors provide MEDICAL CARE.

This hullabaloo is the result of our ridiculously complex tax code that makes “medical expenses” deductible, thus creating tremendous incentives to try and deduct anything that can be connected in any way, shape, or form to “health.”

Here’s what we need to do:

  • Reform the tax code so that the only deducible medical expenses are those that are incurred for actually diagnosing and treating a disease.
  • Either increase the “standard deduction” OR institute an across-the-board new standard “health” deduction intended to cover the health clubs, massages, breast pumps, and so forth. Perhaps some people will actually use the extra funds to make healthier choices at the grocery store.

While we’re at it, I’m not averse to re-tooling the whole thing to make it both simpler and more rational. Granted I’m inviting another surge of unemployment among the gargantuan tax-preparation industry, although the Internet seems to be chipping away at that task all on its own.

Still, I never thought I’d find myself agreeing with the IRS. I suppose there’s a first time for everything.

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

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