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US government finally acknowledges period products as necessities under the CARES Act

Americans can now use the money they put away in tax-advantaged health savings accounts towards buying menstrual products.

US government finally acknowledges period products as necessities under the CARES Act
Image Source: Getty Images (representative)

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act—the $2.2 trillion legislation passed to fight the pandemic and its heavy blow to the American economy—brought with it a rather pleasant surprise. Buried deep in the CARES Act, lies evidence of a monumental event in the nation's history: The US government finally recognizing sanitary products as necessities. Signed by President Trump on March 27, the fine print of the legislation lists pads, tampons, and other such menstrual products as FSA (flexible spending account) and HSA (health savings account) approved items. i.e. Americans can now use the money they put away in a tax-advantaged, health savings accounts towards buying menstrual products.



 

According to The New York Post, the CARES Act includes a provision that allows Americans to use the money they put away in a tax-advantaged, health savings accounts towards buying menstrual products. Section 3702 of the legislation reportedly states that "menstrual care products shall be treated as paid for medical care." Theses products are defined in the act as "a tampon, pad, liner, cup, sponge, or similar product used by individuals with respect to menstruation or other genital-tract secretions." 



 

This provision of the CARES Act also extends to over-the-counter drugs like pain relievers. Speaking to NPR, Jennifer Berman—a lawyer and CEO of MZQ Consulting—pointed out that while the inclusion of menstrual products is new, part of this reinstating rules in place before the Affordable Care Act. "At the end of the year, you'd go and stock up on Band-Aids and Tylenol — that ability got repealed by the [Affordable Care Act]. The CARES Act actually reinstates that provision," she said.



 

The new legislation, which includes a one-time stimulus check for $1,200 for individuals making less than $75,000, reportedly strikes a sentence that allowed for money in flexible spending and health savings accounts to be used "for medicine or a drug only if such medicine or drug is a prescribed drug." Speaking of the historic inclusion of menstrual products in such a provision, Berman pointed out that women-rights advocates fought hard "for a lot of years to be able to add that to the list of reimbursable expenses — so now it officially has been added." As the inclusions are retroactive from January 1, 2020, citizens can file claims from purchases made on newly eligible items since that date.



 

The CEO and president of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association—the trade group that represents the makers of over-the-counter drugs—Scott Melville, praised the new law in a statement saying that the provision "is welcome news to the nearly 60 million Americans who enroll in these accounts to responsibly manage their healthcare expenses." For the uninitiated, HSAs and FSAs allow employers to deposit funds into pre-tax accounts for each pay period to cover medical expenses for everything from doctor visit co-pays to prescriptions and other over-the-counter products, like condoms and pain relievers.



 

However, the legislation does not specify whether feminine hygiene products will remain protected in future tax law in a post-pandemic world, reports Global Citizen. Jennifer-Weiss Wolf, menstrual equity advocate and founder of the organization Period Equity, stated that the bill’s acknowledgment of menstruation is alone a silver lining. "The idea that gender equity and menstrual equity are finding their way into the policy solutions and crisis interventions that our leaders are forging is really important," she told the publication. 



 

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