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Ask the taxgirl: Birth Control Costs

June 9, 2009 · 11 comments

Taxpayer asks:

I have a weird question. My insurance doesn’t cover the cost of my birth control pills. Can I deduct them on my taxes? What about other forms of birth control, like condoms?

Thanks,

Taxgirl says:

Wow, I didn’t realize that there were any insurance companies left that didn’t offer coverage for birth control pills. But that said, yes, you can absolutely deduct the cost of birth control pills as a medical expense.

Keep in mind that to actually take advantage of the deduction, you need to itemize your deductions – if you file with the standard deduction, the deduction isn’t available. You report medical expenses on Schedule A of your form 1040. Unfortunately, there are some limits: medical expenses are only deductible to the extent that they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). This means if your AGI is $30,000, you’d have to rack up $2,250 in medical expenses before you can claim any of the expenses. For a list of what else might qualify, check out this prior post on medical expenses.

Almost anything that requires the services of a physician would qualify – IUD, Norplant, etc. Additionally, the costs of sterilization for women and vasectomies for men are deductible.

What you won’t see on that list are other non-prescription forms of birth control, like condoms. As a general rule, non-prescription drugs and medicines, as well as “personal use items”, are not deductible.

Like any good lawyer, I need to add a disclaimer: Unfortunately, it is impossible to give comprehensive tax advice over the internet, no matter how well researched or written. Before relying on any information given on this site, contact a tax professional to discuss your particular situation.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jen Miller June 9, 2009 at 7:15 am

Most drug stores will mark what non-prescriptions are eligible for a tax deduction or a health savings account. I know CVS an Walgreens puts a letter on your receipt after what’s eligible — from what I recall, things like Benedryl and Claratin are marked.

2 Rebecca June 9, 2009 at 7:21 am

It’s so upsetting that an insurance company won’t cover birth control. It’s a complete disregard of women. I cannot wait for the day that we all have proper health care. A decision to not cover birth control is not just a “business” decision. It is one made out of an idea that women are just not important people (not to mention that if they decide to have sex they deserve to get pregnant and suffer).

3 Kelly June 9, 2009 at 7:24 am

Jen,
That’s true re the HSA but many more things are eligible for HSA than for tax reimbursement. Realistically, the only non-prescription medicine that you can claim as deductible without documentation from your physician is insulin.
I think it’s smart for drugstores to do that, though. It makes folks who track their spending more likely to use that store.

4 Marc June 9, 2009 at 12:34 pm

And a poor business decision at that. It seems to me birth control is a heck of a lot cheaper to the insurance provider than giving birth in a hospital.

5 Michael June 9, 2009 at 1:39 pm

An insurance company not covering birth control pills is really stupid. The cost of the delivery or one unwanted baby is going to wipe out the savings of a lifetime of not paying for the pills.

6 Estella June 10, 2009 at 11:58 am

Michael,

You may think not covering is stupid but some insurance companies know more about the negative long-term effects of hormonal contraceptives that are ignored by most. Most insurance companies would not cover other synthetic hormones meant for boys to build muscle. They may be more progressive than you think.

7 Deborah June 11, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Regarding OC (Oral Contraceptive) benefit coverage-Our Rx plan offers the employer the option of covering OC or not–some employers who do not wish to cover OC for whatever reason (age of employees, lower cost, playing God, etc) can make that choice when putting together group health insurance plan. I think there is also the same choice option for the viagra type drugs and diabetes drugs as well.
I’m not saying it’s the right thing-just bringing it to your attention.

8 Amanda January 20, 2012 at 11:52 pm

I realize this was posted 2.5 years ago, but if the author is still checking this I was wondering: my health insurance covers my birth control ONLY for the amount exceeding $80. However, I am still paying $80/month for it. Can I write off the $80 I am paying out of pocket every month that the insurance refuses to cover, or am I unable to write off any of it due to the fact that my insurance does cover some of the cost?

Also, to address Marc & Michael above. You are right, it WOULD be cheaper for an insurance company to cover birth control rather than having to pay for pregnancy expenses when their patient gets pregnant accidentally. HOWEVER, not all insurance plans for women actually cover maternity costs. With many plans (generally ones that are not provided by employers), women DO NOT receive any maternity coverage unless they pay extra for it. Even if they do pay extra for it, they can’t actually use the maternity coverage until they’ve had the plan for 2-3 years. So, even though I pay $300+/month for my health insurance (which I rarely use, by the way), if I were to become pregnant, it would be the same as not having health insurance at all, b/c none of my obstetrician visits or hospital bills would be covered. Under my current plan, if I decided I wanted to have a baby right away, I would either have to pay entirely out of pocket, or I would have to sign up for the maternity coverage and then wait at least 2 years to get pregnant before they would pay a dime of my medical bills.

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