17 Health Care Costs You May Be Able to Deduct From Your Taxes

March 2019

It’s tax time again. And that means it’s time to gather up your tax documents, crunch the numbers and hope for the best.

For many older Americans, it also means utilizing some key health care-related deductions.

Here is a list of 17 health care expenses that seniors or people with disabilities may be able to deduct from their 2018 taxes, which will be filed in April 2019.

Couple calculating their taxes

Health care tax deductions

Medical expenses are defined by federal tax law as “the costs for diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease, and for treatments affecting any part or function of the body.”1

But the IRS also allows for a number of tax deductions that don’t necessarily fit into any of those categories, and many of these deductions often go overlooked by tax filers.

Some of these potential deductions can include costs related to:

  1. Alternative treatments such as acupuncture.

  2. Equipment such as wheelchairs, bath chairs, bedside commodes and other items used by people with disabilities or certain conditions.

  3. Diabetes-related equipment including blood-testing kits, blood strips and insulin.

  4. Eye and ear care, including eye exams, prescription glasses and sunglasses, contact lenses and contact lens insurance, as well as certain eye surgeries, hearing aids and even Braille books.

  5. Home improvement projects that are designed to accommodate a disability, such as wheelchair ramps or bathroom grab bars, may be covered by some Medicare Advantage plans and may also be tax deductible.

    However, only the portion of the cost that is above any increase to the home’s value is tax deductible. For example, if a home improvement project cost $8,000 but only added $5,000 to the home’s value, only $3,000 of the improvement costs be tax deductible.

  6. Up to $50 per night for lodging in a hotel in order to receive necessary out-of-town medical treatment.

  7. The cost of admission and transportation to a medical conference on a chronic condition from which you, a spouse or other dependent suffers.

  8. Medical costs related to organ transplants for both the recipient and donor.

  9. The cost of caretaking for daily tasks like bathing, dressing and eating. Some of these costs can also be covered by certain Medicare Advantage plans.

  10. Both inpatient and outpatient treatment for alcohol, drug and other rehabilitation.

  11. Service animal costs, including their food, training and vet bills.

  12. Smoking-cessation treatments that are prescribed by a doctor.

  13. Special diets that are prescribed by a doctor to treat a medical condition such as celiac disease, obesity or hypertension. However, only the cost that is demonstrably above the cost of regular foods may be deductible.

  14. The cost of special education to address a diagnosed physical, mental or emotional condition.

  15. Transportation costs to receive medical care. This can include the cost of cab, train or bus fare or 18 cents per mile if you use your own car. Starting in 2019, some Medicare Advantage plans can also cover non-emergency transportation.

  16. Weight-loss programs for those with a diagnosed medical condition (excluding obesity).

  17. Wigs for cancer patients who lose their hair due to chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

The 2019 tax filing season ends on Monday, April 15. You can consider talking to a tax professional if you believe any of the deductions above may apply to your filing.


1 https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/213

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