The 14-year-old has homecoming (and a date) this weekend, otherwise we would be at the Jon Stewart Rally to Restore Sanity. If I were in Washington, however, I’d also have to wander over the IRS to try and restore a little sanity to the idio. . . um, hardworking government employees who work there. Seems the IRS recently issued its annual rules about what the money in medical savings accounts (those accounts created with pre-tax dollars) can be used for.
As The New York Times reported earlier this week, the IRS says you can spend those pre-tax dollars on items like dentures, pimple cream, and even replacing real grass with turf if your kid has severe allergies; but not breast pumps. Why? To quote the Times’ article: “breast-feeding does not have enough health benefits to qualify as a form of medical care.” Instead, the IRS views it as being a form of nutrition only.
When I read those words my first impulse was to hop in my car, drive to DC, find the IRS building, whip off my shirt and bra, hook up a breast pump to my boobs, and march on the IRS office, preferably with about 5,000 other women doing the same thing. Never mind that it’s been 13 years since I last nursed a baby. Never mind that this would, quite likely, cause the three children whom I once nursed (now nearly 24, 18 and 13) to tell their friends that, sadly, their mother died before they were born. I was just so incensed I didn’t know any other recourse.
Luckily, I calmed down (it was also about 11:30 p.m. and I was tired). Instead, I’m writing this blog with a request. If you have a few minutes, please call the IRS taxpayer advocacy hotline and register your complaint: 877-777-4778. Unfortunately, there is no email to send scathing messages to.
When you call, give the advocate just a few examples of the medical benefits of breastfeeding, including improved immune system, and a reduced risk of ear infections, obesity, asthma, allergies, diabetes, childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome and gastrointestinal diseases. And that’s just for the babies! For the moms, the medical benefits include a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and breast and ovarian cancer.
The source for this information? Reports from other government departments: the Agency for Health Care Quality and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An additional resource can be found here.
Also remind them that for all our good intentions, it’s nearly impossible for most women to breastfeed for more than a few weeks without pumping some milk for the freezer. My breast pump (which I loved more than my husband during my years of nursing) made it possible for me to nurse 3 babies for a combined 5 years and work full time as a newspaper reporter without ever resorting to formula. Bottom line: it was as important during that time in my life as moisture-wicking nightgowns (think hot flashes) are today (and I bet I could buy said nightgowns with health savings accounts funds!).
And please, before you hang up, issue an invitation to the IRS to pop over to the rally on Saturday. Because god knows they need some sanity!