IRS decision recognizes that public health begins with breastfeeding
The Internal Revenue Service decision to include breastfeeding supplies as deductible medical expenses is a major step forward for US health policy and maternal-child health.
“This is great news for mothers and babies,” says Gerald Calnen MD, president of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. “A major US agency understands that public health begins with breastfeeding, and that agency is setting policy to support US families.” Clearly this should be a model for governments and insurers worldwide.
The IRS decision comes after a concerted effort by child health advocates in Congress to educate officials. Senators Jeff Merkley, Tom Harkin, and Representatives Sander Levin and Carolyn B. Maloney led efforts to reverse an earlier IRS decision, which precluded breast pumps and lactation supplies from coverage. The original letters to IRS Commissioner Shulman include the list of Senators and Members of Congress who helped make this important request.
Coming on the heels of the just-released Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, this decision provides concrete support for nursing mothers. This document outlines a comprehensive strategy, ranging from peer support to greater funding for breastfeeding research, to enable mothers to achieve their infant feeding goals.
“After years of exhorting mothers to try harder, we’ve finally started implementing policies that remove the ‘booby traps’ that undermine breast-feeding success,” Calnen said. “The IRS decision is evidence that leaders in Washington get it. And that’s a major step forward for moms and babies.”