The medical expenses deduction allows individuals and families with high medical costs, such as those who have children with complex medical needs, to deduct these costs from their income taxes. The current version of the House GOP tax plan would eliminate the medical expenses deduction. This will have a negative impact on many of the families whom we represent; families like James’ whose story we first shared here. While James’ ventilator breathes for him at night, the new tax plan does nothing to help his mother, Jenny, breathe easy. Below is her story, and what the medical expenses deduction has meant to her family.
Our son James was born in April 2011 and was not released from the hospital until January of 2012. We lived in a rural part of California, and the closest hospital with the capacity to care for our son was almost 200 miles away.
During the nine months our son was hospitalized, we were basically commuter parents. When your child is in the hospital for a few days or weeks, you can take time off of work. When your child is in the hospital for nine months, and there is no conceivable end in sight for his medical issues, you have to go back to work. We would drive up to the hospital on Fridays after my husband got off of work. We would stay near the hospital Friday night through Saturday afternoon, then we would drive home. Mondays I would do laundry and try to have at least one normal day a week for our other daughter, who was only sixteen months old when our medically complex son was born. On Tuesdays I would drop our daughter off with my parents, and drive up to the hospital Tuesday through Thursday. Thursday night I would drive home and then we would do it all over again. Every week. For nine months.
As you can imagine, this got very expensive. That year, we drove more than 20,000 miles for medical care. That’s a lot of trips to the gas station. Every once in a while we would get lucky and get a room at the Ronald McDonald House, which only charged $10 per might, but most of the time the McDonald House was full and we were on our own to find a hotel. Then there were copays, deductibles, and medical equipment that was not covered by our insurance that we had to pay out of pocket.
In all, that year we were able to deduct nearly $20,000 in expenses related to James’ medical care – far less than what we actually paid out of pocket, but being able to deduct those expenses made a huge difference for us. In the years since, we generally spend at least a few thousand dollars a year out of pocket on medical supplies that our insurance doesn’t cover. For example: my son uses a ventilator to breathe for him overnight, and the only connectors that our medical supplier provides are incorrectly sized and pull at his tracheostomy stoma, causing pain and bleeding. We have to order a different brand of circuit connectors out of pocket. There’s also travel for necessarily hospital visits. In some years, these costs were high enough that we have been able to deduct them using the medical expenses deduction as well.
If the medical expenses deduction is eliminated, our taxes would increase, because our taxable income would increase. The out of pocket medical expenses we pay for our child are a constant: we simply cannot stop driving to medical appointments or buying extremely specialized medical equipment and supplies. We’ll still be on the hook for his medical expenses, but the extra money we’ll be paying in taxes means we’ll have less money for everything else in life.
Submitted by James’ mother, Jenny