You Can Finally Use FSA or HSA Money to Buy Pads and Tampons

After years of debate, menstrual care products finally count as medical care items.

In this new era of social distancing and pandemics, it’s important to find good news where you can. Here’s a tidbit you may have missed: While the March 27 passage of the coronavirus relief package (aka the CARES Act) is obviously good news for businesses, industries, and individuals struggling financially during quarantine and lockdown, it’s also good news for anyone who menstruates.

Tucked deep inside the CARES Act (H.R. 748) is Sec. 3702, Inclusion of Certain Over-the-Counter Medical Products as Qualified Medical Expenses. This amendment to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 says that money spent on menstrual products—defined as tampons, pads, liners, cups, sponges, or similar products used for menstruation—counts as expenses incurred for medical care, meaning you can use funds in your HSA account or FSA to purchase these essentials.

Health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs) work by allowing people to deposit money into accounts pre-tax, meaning they’re reducing the tax money taken out of each paycheck while setting aside money to specifically cover medical expenses. Until now, menstrual products were not officially recognized as medical care items, so people could not purchase them with HSA or FSA funds without risking a penalty. (The fight to change that has raged for years.)

Now though, in a midst of a global crisis, lawmakers have slipped this positive change into the larger stimulus package. While it doesn’t eliminate the so-called tampon tax—the fact that tampons and other menstrual care products are subject to a sales tax while other basic necessities and personal medical items, including groceries, are not—it does mean people purchasing menstrual items are able to do so with tax-free money, potentially saving large sums of money over the course of their lifetimes. Those with funded HSAs or FSAs can also now receive reimbursements from these accounts for money spent on menstrual care products in 2020. (No one’s getting a reimbursement for the taxed money they’ve spent on tampons over their lifetime, unfortunately.)

It’s a small change—most menstruating people will probably end up saving as little as a few cents each month—but a positive one, and one people have argued in favor of for years. When that time of the month rolls around again, you can pick up a fresh box of tampons with your HSA card or request a reimbursement from your FSA: At this point, we’ll take any win we can get.

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