Menstruating humans, rejoice!!!
As part of the CARES Act for COVID-19 relief, a provision was included that made menstrual products eligible for various health benefits!
We’re not all the way to tax-free menstrual products yet, however, this is a big step!
- All menstrual products are now FSA/HSA eligible expenses under the CARES Act.
- This not only includes conventional pads and tampons, but also ~*fancy*~ stuff like diva cups, absorbent period panties, and cloth pads!
- This law is retroactive, meaning it dates back to Dec. 31, 2019–you can dig up any old receipts for pads/tampons/etc. with a date Jan 1. 2020 or later and get it reimbursed!
(Those of you already familiar can skip this section.)
Both of these accounts are health spending accounts–they can be used for certain, eligible health expenses. What is eligible is defined by the IRS, because these items end up being doubly tax-free. An FSA is a Flexible Spending Account. This often takes the form of, if you have a good plan, a debit card issued by your employer that you can use to directly pay for items, or (slightly more of a hassle) an account you contribute to that reimburses you. But beware–the account balance disappears at the end of the year! So usually you specify an amount that you know you will use up–a bit below your normal medical expenses. FSA and HSA accounts are doubly tax-free: you don’t pay taxes on the income that you contribute to that account, and you don’t pay taxes on the products that you purchase (or are reimbursed for) from that account. This is a huge benefit for health copays (like for doctors’ visits and dental work, or new glasses/contacts), and for everyday expenses, like pain killers–and now, menstrual products!!!
An HSA is a Health Savings Account. This is an account that, unlike an FSA, does roll over from year to year, with tax advantages and certain contribution limits. To even start contributing to an HSA, you have to have a “high deductible health plan”. The money in an HSA can be invested, which means you can do sneaky financial planning things with it–but that’s not what this post is about. On the day-to-day medical expenses front, it operates much the same way as an FSA–you can buy everyday health items and pay for medical copays with it, and again, now purchase menstrual products!!!
If you’re a working adult in the U.S. (or soon to be one, as many of my readers are college students) I highly recommend getting an HSA/FSA if your employer offers one.
What Menstrual Products Are Covered?
You might be surprised at what’s covered–I know I was!
Fortunately, the text of the law is very open-ended. It simply says “the term ‘menstrual care product’ means a tampon, pad, liner, cup, sponge, or similar product used by individuals with respect to menstruation or other genital-tract secretions”
This wording, while very ‘legal’, is important–it means any new innovations or products for menstrual care are covered. That includes, for example, diva cups and period panties, which when I first heard about this provision I did not realize were covered. However it does not cover “feminine care” products such as washes or wipes intended for female genitalia.
The period of coverage is even retroactive, dating back to Dec. 31, 2019 before this bill was passed. That means if you can dig up any receipts with menstrual products on them dated Jan 1 2020 and later, you can get those reimbursed too!
And even better, by now most providers have edited their coverage to be in compliance. Sometimes not all features are up-to-date yet–for example, my FSA debit card was ‘declined’ when I tried to buy some period undies with it, but I was still able to submit a claim with a form that I emailed to the provider.
This is now a legal requirement, so if you are having difficulty with your provider, keep pressing them! If push comes to shove, threaten to file a class-action lawsuit (jk, but also actually do it maybe).
Of course, I should note that, the fight’s not over yet. Many workers, especially gig workers and contract workers, do not have access to an HSA or FSA because these are benefits offered through employers. Some people may simply not have a stable enough cycle of income and expenses to reliably contribute to one. That’s why menstrual products need to be tax-free like food and other necessities, so that everyone can benefit.
I mean, it just seems so obvious–can anyone say that menstrual products are not a necessity? By the way, we menstruating people are actually doing everyone else a favor by collecting our secretions. What if we just bled on everything you loved instead, huh, how would you feel about that? (This may or may not be in a Google Drive folder labeled “Protest Ideas”)
How I’m Celebrating!
In fact, in celebration of this momentous event, I will be reviewing two brands of period products on this very blog!
The first is Aisle, a brand that used to be called ‘Lunapads’ and made cloth pads. Now, they also make absorbent underwear. They have some of the highest absorbency claims on the market–they say their products can hold up to 4 tampons worth of liquid. I ordered two of the boyshorts to test while sleeping on heavy days (you know those days….the worst…)
The second is Knix, a brand that’s the cheaper-than-Thinx, PFAS-free absorbent panty disruptor. Knix makes other stuff (bras mostly) and they also have some real pretty period panties, even lacy ones. And you know, aesthetics matter. There’s a psychological benefit to wearing something nice when you feel blehhh (though don’t get me wrong, I quite like Aisle’s androgynous, gender neutral look too!)
Best of all, both these brands–but especially Aisle–have a focus on sustainability.
Stay tuned for reviews when these arrive and I have a chance to use ’em!