March 3

Movie Showing: “Triangle Fire” From the PBS American Experience series, 1 hour Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire where 148 young immigrant women lost their lives. The Triangle Fire forever changed the relationship between labor and industry in the United States, a relationship that is still in question today as Americans re-examine the balance between the welfare of citizens and the motivations of global capitalism.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

6:30 pm

Rock Hill Bake House,
19 Exchange Street,
Glens Falls, New York 12801

Sponsored By the Adirondack Labor-Religion Coalition working for social and economic justice for all.


March 3
Breast Pumps Now Reimbursable Medical Supplies in HCFSA

In good news for nursing mothers, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced recently that breast pumps and lactation supplies may be deductible medical expenses. Breast pumps and supplies can also be reimbursed under flexible-spending accounts such as the PEF Health Care Flexible Spending Account (HCFSA).

The ruling is effective immediately, and expenses incurred between January 1-December 31, 2010 can be reimbursed as 2010 plan year expenses through the regular deadline of 3/15/11.

Until now, nursing mothers couldn’t use flexible-spending accounts to pay for breast pumps and other nursing supplies because the IRS said that breastfeeding didn’t have enough health benefits to qualify as medical or preventive care.

The new ruling means that families can use pretax funds from their flexible spending accounts for pumps and other supplies. Medical expenses, meanwhile, are not deductible until they exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income. Breast pumps typically cost more than $200 and, along with supplies, can run as high as $1,000 in the first year of a baby’s life.

American Academy of Pediatrics president O. Marion Burton praised the IRS decision.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics hails the Internal Revenue Service ruling today that recognizes breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies as medical expenses worthy of reimbursement through flexible spending accounts,” said Dr. Burton in a statement. “Today’s IRS ruling providing favorable tax treatment for the purchase of breast pumps and breastfeeding equipment marks an important victory for the health of women and children across the country by making breastfeeding a more practical option for new and working mothers. For years, the AAP has been urging the IRS to recognize that breast milk is not just the best and most natural food for infants; it confers well-documented health benefits on both baby and mother that cannot be obtained any other way. The IRS has finally acknowledged this medical fact, and we applaud them for changing their regulations accordingly.”




December 12

Deadline to Enroll in the Flex Spending Account is Friday, December 9

The Flex Spending Account (FSA) is a program PEF offers to help staff save money on their taxes. The FSA has two benefits, the Health Care Flexible Spending Account (HCFSA) and the Dependent Care Benefit Account (DCBA)–that help you pay for health care or dependent care with pre-tax dollars. Even if you enrolled last year you must enroll again this year. The deadline to enroll is December 9, 2011.

Enrolling in either benefit is voluntary. Savings will vary depending on your annual income, the number of dependents you claim on your taxes, and the amount of money you contribute through payroll deductions to your HCFSA and/or DCBA.

How does the Health Care Flexible Spending Account work?

If eligible, you may contribute any amount up to $1,500 annually [1] in pre-tax dollars to pay for out-of-pocket medical, dental or vision costs not reimbursed by health insurance. Some examples of allowable costs are prescription drug copayments, dental charges and orthodontia fees paid to non-participating providers, deductibles, laser eye surgery, and contact lenses.

Recent changes in federal law limit OTC drug reimbursement. Effective January 1, 2011, OTC drugs will require a doctor’s prescription to be eligible for reimbursement under the HCFSA.  As a result, the debit card will no longer work for most over-the-counter drugs. Other OTC products (e.g. hearing aid batteries, band-aids, contact lens solution, etc.) are not affected by the new law.

The following are examples of OTC medications that will require prescriptions for reimbursement:

Acid controllers

Allergy & sinus medicines

Antibiotic products

Anti-diarrheal medicines

Anti-gas products

Anti-itch & insect bite  products

Cold sore remedies

Cough, cold & flu medicines

Diaper rash ointments/creams

Digestive aids

Feminine anti-fungal/anti-itch

Hemorrhoid treatment


Motion sickness medicines

Pain relief medicines

Respiratory treatments

Sleep aids & sedatives

Stomach remedies


Effective January 1, 2013, the IRS will limit medical Flexible Spending Account annual contributions to $2,500. If you have a big medical expense coming up such as orthodontia, then plan ahead for 2012 to get the tax benefit.

How does the Dependent Care Benefit Account work?

If you pay a caregiver to care for your child, elderly parent, or disabled spouse in order to work, you can set aside up to $5,000 in pre-tax salary through payroll deduction to help pay for these expenses. Examples of expenses eligible for DCBA reimbursement include child care expenses (through age 12), summer day camp, before/after school programs and adult day care.

To enroll in the HCFSA for either Health Care or Dependent Care Accounts or both, you must estimate your annual out-of-pocket costs, and then decide how much money to have withheld from your paycheck. It’s important to estimate conservatively because if you don’t file claims for reimbursement of the entire amount, you will lose any remaining funds.

How do I file a claim?

Once enrolled you can fill out an electronic claim form online, mail or fax claims, then receive reimbursement by check or direct deposit. If you use the debit card, you may be asked to submit a copy of a receipt to verify that a card transaction was for a qualified expense. You can choose reimbursement by check or direct deposit into your bank account. The Take Care plan website http://www.takecareplans.com/cbp/home.asp gives you 24 hour access to your plan expense and reimbursement information.

Does the money have to be in my Health Care Flexible Spending Account before I use the debit card or file a claim?

No, the entire annual amount you elect for the HCFSA is available on the first day and throughout the plan year.

Does the money have to be in my Dependent Care Benefit Account before I file a claim?

Yes, only amounts contributed to date are available for reimbursement of dependent care. This is a requirement of the Internal Revenue Service.

Tax savings example

A single employee earns $53,000, declares 2 dependents and files as head of household. The annual HCFSA contribution is $1,300 and the employee incurs $1,300 in reimbursable health care expenses.


Without HCFSA

Savings with HCFSA

Annual income



Expenses paid through HCFSA



Adjusted gross income



Federal income tax




NYS income tax




Social security tax




After-tax cost of health care expenses



Your spendable income (assuming there are no other payroll deductions)




This employee could save $384 in taxes by using the Health Care Flexible Spending Account.

PEF requested Blue Shield and informedRx send all staff letters with their out-of-pocket expenses for the past year, to assist with calculating out-of-pocket expenses for 2012. The deadline to enroll is December 9, 2011. If you have questions about the Flexible Spending Account contact Deborah Stayman at x286 or [email protected].

[1] PEF will consider a higher amount if requested. Contact Cliff Merchant for details.