While lawmakers have been negotiating a spending package to provide assistance for a variety of needs amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there's one policy change you may not have expected — and it'll result in savings for Americans who have periods. The $2 trillion economic relief plan passed this week will allow pretax spending on menstrual products, including tampons, pads, liners, cups, sponges, or similar products.
Previously, people were only permitted to use pretax funds for eligible healthcare-related expenses — and for some reason, period products were never deemed a healthcare expense. Instead, these expenses were limited to "the costs of diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease."
By reclassifying menstrual products as "medical expenses," this bill will let shoppers pay for their products with flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts, which use pretax dollars taken from workers' paychecks. The bill will also retroactively cover costs through Jan. 1, 2020. As the new bill states, "Amounts paid for menstrual care products shall be treated as paid for medical care" for HSAs and Archer medical savings accounts. For FSAs and health reimbursement accounts, menstrual product costs "shall be treated as incurred for medical care."
Considering this has been a point of contention for at least 15 years, this change is a pretty big deal. The House had even passed a similar measure in July 2018, which designated menstrual products as qualifying expenses for pretax health plans. The provision was sponsored by Democratic Rep. Grace Meng of New York, who argued that "menstrual hygiene products are essential and necessary for women, and deserve to be items that are permitted to be purchased with health flexible spending account funds." Unfortunately, that bill was never taken up in Senate, but now the policy has been given a second chance.
While we can only hope that the tampon tax will be next, this alone feels like a big victory for those with menstrual periods everywhere.