Getting healthy should NOT be an expensive undertaking. Yet, unfortunately, that’s exactly what it’s become. The average price of a gym membership is $55 a month – that’s $750 a year. The average price of a 2000-calorie diet per day is $3.52 – IF that 2000-calorie diet consists of junk food. A 2000-calorie diet consisting of strictly healthy foods? $36.32. The average cost of one pound lost on Weight Watchers is $97. It’s $130-139 on NutriSystem, $131-174 on Jenny Craig, and $118-126 on a custom-fit diet plan. The point I am trying to make is this: losing weight is not cheap! (Whoever said that good health is priceless probably never tried to lose weight in America).
If you’re reading this and cringing at the costs of getting healthy (as I am while writing this), don’t be too discouraged just yet – I have a secret I’d like to share with you, one that the IRS, the government and every other insurance agency out there would like to keep well hidden. Many medical weight loss programs are actually tax-deductible. Below, I have listed three structures that offer ways to save money on weight loss programs: the HSA, the FSA and the Itemized Medical Expense Deduction (yes, it really is on your tax forms).
HSA: A health savings account is a tax-exempt account used solely for the purpose of paying for qualified medical expenses. These types of accounts allow owners to save money for any and all health care costs and not have that money taxed – ever (so long as it’s used for qualified medical care costs). If you go about it correctly, your medical weight loss program may very well be exempt.
So, how do you “go about it correctly?” According to the IRS, as long as losing weight is a treatment for a legitimate, medically diagnosed disease (such as obesity, hypertension and heart disease), you should be able to write off the expenses. If you’ve been diagnosed with any of these conditions, your weight loss may be covered.
FSA: A flexible spending account is another pre-tax program that provides many of the same benefits of an HSA. However, unlike HSAs, FSAs run on a “use it or lose it” basis, and any money you put into the account that’s left over at the end of the year doesn’t roll over – it’s just gone. But, the tax benefits are still there, and very similar – meaning that if you have a medically diagnosed condition that requires you to lose weight, you may be able to write off the expense if taken from your FSA.
Itemized Medical Expense Deduction: What if you don’t have an HSA or an FSA and you want and need to lose weight? As a taxpayer, you are legally allowed to add your weight loss expenses to the cost of your other medical and dental expenses.
There are certain weight loss expenses that aren’t tax-deductible, though. These include:
- Weight loss program costs that aren’t for the specific purpose of treating a medically diagnosed disease
- Expenses for gym, health club or spa memberships
- The cost of diet foods and/or beverages (i.e. diet soda, fiber bars, etc.)
Losing weight should not be a hardship. If anything, everyone involved along the pathway to health should make the process as easy for you as possible. After all, you are trying to better your life. At HSA for America, we believe that great health should be easy, which is why we do everything in our power to help you find the health care provider who will assist you along your journey to better health, no matter which route you choose to take. We lay out the facts for you on each health care provider so you can find the one who provides all the services you need, at the price you want. And we’ll do it for free.
To see how we can help you on your journey to great health and a better life, visit our website.
Amanda Grace is a contributing author to HSA for America and an expert on Health Savings Accounts.