Washington, D.C., USA: The House of Representatives has passed legislation billed as an advancement for “menstrual equality” that would allow menstrual hygiene products to be purchased with money from health flexible spending accounts. The bill now goes to the Senate as part of a broader, bipartisan bill to expand the accounts.
The bill authored by U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) passed as part of the Restoring Access to Medication and Modernizing Health Savings Accounts Act (H.R. 6199), a bipartisan bill that seeks to expand health spending accounts.
”The passage of my legislation is a major leap forward in our fight for menstrual equality,” said Meng. “It brings us another step closer towards making menstrual hygiene products more accessible and affordable to women. Menstrual hygiene products are essential and necessary for women, and deserve to be items that are permitted to be purchased with health flexible spending account funds. There is no reason why menstrual products should not be included, and I am thrilled that we are on the path to finally changing that wrongheaded policy. I thank Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) for partnering with me on this important issue, and I thank my colleagues in the House for supporting it. I look forward to my legislation now moving through the Senate.”
Under Meng’s provision, which passed the House this week and was approved last week by the House Ways and Means Committee, health flexible spending account funds would be allowed to be used for numerous types of menstrual hygiene products such as tampons, pads, liners, cups, sponges, or similar items used by women with respect to menstruation.
Health flexible spending accounts allow individuals to use pre-tax dollars to pay for eligible health care expenses. The money in these types of accounts is contributed from an individual’s paycheck.
In addition to her health flexible spending account legislation, Meng has authored the Menstrual Equity for All Act (H.R. 972) which seeks to help different populations of women and girls better access menstrual hygiene products, and the Menstrual Products Right to Know Act (H.R. 2416) which aims to improve the safety of menstrual hygiene products. The Congresswoman also convinced FEMA to add menstrual hygiene products to the list of items that homeless assistance providers can purchase with federal grant funds, and as a result of her efforts, the Federal Bureau of Prisons agreed to provide female inmates with menstrual products free-of-charge.
In addition, she and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan earlier this month requesting that he allow House offices to be reimbursed for menstrual hygiene products that are purchased for Congressional staff and office visitors. The correspondence also asks Ryan to provide free menstrual hygiene products in all House bathrooms.
Women’s rights advocates have rallied in favor of making these fact-of-life products free, saying they are a basic necessity. In April, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that schools in his state would be required to provide free menstrual products in restrooms for girls in grades 6 through 12.
“Schools in New York State will now be required to provide free menstrual products in restrooms for girls in grades 6 through 12. Menstrual products are as necessary as toilet paper and soap, but can be one expense too many for struggling families.” he tweeted.