What’s a Tax Deductible Health Expense?

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If you get health insurance through your job, heads up — it’s open enrollment time. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it’s even more important than usual that workers pay attention to what their health insurance plan will look like next year. There are major changes afoot.

One change concerns flexible spending accounts, or FSAs. These allow workers to set aside pre-tax income to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses like insurance co-pays and drug costs. Beginning in 2011, employees will not be able to use FSA funds to pay for over-the-counter medicine unless it’s prescribed by a doctor. This change is something employees should keep in mind when deciding how much of their paychecks to route into FSAs next year. (More on Time.com: 5 Keys to Health Reform’s Success or Failure)

The New York Times reports today on a lack of change that rankling some. Despite a sweeping new health care reform law intended, in part, to emphasize behavior that will keep people healthy, the IRS will continue to exclude breast-feeding expenses from FSA expenditures. Research indicates that babies who are breast-fed are healthier than those who are fed formula. Says the Times:

A study released this year by Harvard Medical School concluded that if 90 percent of mothers followed the standard medical advice of feeding infants only breast milk for their first six months, the United States could save $13 billion a year in health care costs and prevent the premature deaths of 900 infants each year from respiratory illness and other infections.

For mothers who return to work within weeks or months of their babies’ birth, breast pumps are an essential tool, argue groups like La Leche League International. The Affordable Care Act does include another provision, however, intended to encourage breast-feeding. New mothers will be allowed by law to take unpaid breaks from work to use breast pumps. (More on Time.com: Special Report: Health Care for the Uninsured).

Other changes to look for this open enrollment season include new health insurance regulations that may make plans better from a consumer perspective, but also slightly more expensive. See this story from September on new regulations that might affect your work-sponsored insurance this fall. (Hint: If your plan stays almost exactly the same, many of these new regulations may not affect you.)

More on Time.com:

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Photos: Brooklyn’s All-Volunteer Ambulance Corps

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