|Start with talking to your doctor about your medical condition.|
Expenses for incontinence supplies may be tax deductible if shown they’re needed to relieve the effects of a specific disease, according to U.S. Internal Revenue Service guidelines. In cases where incontinence products are needed for a condition like simple bladder weakness, individuals may have other options for reimbursement.
1. Start by talking to your doctor.
Start by seeing your doctor, who may diagnose you with medical incontinence and may be able to advise you on seeking reimbursement based on your health and financial situation. Ask your doctor for a letter that explains your medical need for incontinence products and consult your tax adviser.
A diagnosis in writing from a health care professional is an important first step toward maximizing options for reimbursement, according to Heather McDonald, senior accountant with Roberts, Ritschke & Tyczkowski, Ltd. “If you have a diagnosed severe neurological disease — Alzheimer’s, for example — and you wear Depends, there is guidance to allow individuals to take the deduction. For something like bladder weakness, you’d need more extensive documentation to even consider the deduction,” she says.
In addition to Alzheimer’s, there are more than 600 neurologic diseases, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Other major types include muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, and Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. Patients who have suffered stroke, injuries to the brain or spinal cord, epilepsy, cancer or meningitis also are considered to have neurologic disease.
2. Check your health insurance plan.
While many private insurance plans do not cover incontinence supplies, you may be reimbursed through a health savings account (HSA) or a flexible spending account (FSA) if certain conditions are met, according to McDonald.
“An HSA is self-funded; medical expenses are paid with a debit card or check. An FSA is employer-sponsored. It would have to be a qualified medical expense for both of them. It must be in writing or it would not qualify,” says McDonald.
With an HSA, funds contributed to the account are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit, and funds roll over and accumulate year to year if not used. With an FSA, an employee sets aside a portion of earnings, which are not subject to payroll taxes, to pay for qualified expenses; funds deposited into an FSA must be used within the calendar year. With flex spending plans, receipts are submitted to a plan administrator and participants receive reimbursement checks. HSA plans are self-administered to pay for medical expenses.
3. Check your Medicare or Medicaid eligibility.
Medicare is a health insurance program for people age 65 or older, people under age 65 with certain disabilities, and people of all ages with end-stage renal disease. Medicare programs include hospital insurance, medical insurance and prescription drug coverage. To see if you may be eligible for benefits, use the Medicare Eligibility Tool.
Medicaid is health insurance that helps many people who can’t afford medical care pay for some or all of their medical bills. If you are a U.S. citizen with limited income and you qualify for Medicaid because of age or disability, Medicaid may send payments directly to your health care providers. Visit Medicaid.gov for information on qualifications and to find a program in your state.
4. Take advantage of local resources.
Check your telephone book’s county government section for county offices for the aging and disability resource centers. These county offices may be able to direct you to resources to help you receive reimbursement.
If you cannot afford incontinence supplies, some communities have diaper banks, in which products are donated by organizations or individuals and given to those in need. Although many diaper banks focus on newborns, some include adult diapers. Check your phone book or look online to see if your city or state offers this service. Your local senior center may be able to help you find resources as well.
5. Consult your tax professional for advice on medical and other deductions.
A tax professional can provide advice and services that help clients comply with regulations and requirements, make sound financial decisions, and keep more of their money.
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