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Coronavirus stimulus bill: Use HSA or FSA to buy pads, tampons

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  • A $2 trillion spending bill to rescue the economy and the healthcare industry from the coronavirus pandemic passed the US Senate last night. It’s now headed to the House.
  • A provision in the bill would let people use health savings accounts and flexible spending account to pay for menstrual products, something that currently isn’t allowed.
  • You can put money from your paycheck into those accounts without paying taxes on it, effectively making it cheaper to buy menstrual products.
  • The provision extends to pads, tampons, cups, sponges, and liners. 
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Shoppers are about to get a break on purchasing period products under a provision tucked into the $2 trillion coronavirus aid package making its way through Congress. 

The change in law would allow people to pay for pads, tampons, cups, sponges, and liners with flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts, which use pre-tax dollars taken from workers’ paychecks. Under current law, these accounts can be used for purchases from contact solution to sunscreen and aspirin, but not to pay for menstrual products. 

That would change under the coronavirus rescue package going before the House Friday and expected to get President Donald Trump’s signature this weekend. The bill would re-classify period products as “medical expenses,” allowing shoppers to buy them with their FSAs or HSA debit cards at the store. 

Though most of the coronavirus legislation, known as the CARES Act, is aimed at alleviating climbing unemployment and rescuing an overwhelmed healthcare system, the bill’s fast-track created a lobbying spree that allowed for the inclusion of other priorities lawmakers have been working on. The provision was already in the Senate draft as early as Sunday.

This isn’t the first time the issue has come up in Congress. The House had passed a similar measure in 2018, but that bill was never taken up in the Senate.

Proponents of making the change have referred to the law and other restrictions on accessing menstrual products as the “tampon tax.” Gutting it as been part of a broader push for policy changes to improve access to the products, whether that means requiring them to be stocked in schools or exempting menstrual products from state sales taxes. 

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