Category Archives: Travel expenses

Tax Benefits of Medical Travel

An online newspaper, Medical Tourism Daily posted an article today from The CPA Journal examining the tax benefits medical travelers could receive if they sought medical care outside of the US.

This article is a further elaboration of an earlier article written by an ERISA lawyer and that I wrote about four years ago, Beware the IRS: What to Know Before Using Medical Tourism for Group Health Plans.

Today’s article was authored by three CPA’s and PhD’s from the University of North Florida, in Jacksonville.

The authors discussed the additional savings for taxpayers who seek medical care abroad, above the savings from the medical care itself.

The main takeaways from the article are as follows:

  1. Deductibility of Medical Expenses – generally, the deductibility of medical expenses is determined without regard to where the expenses are incurred. Taxpayers seeking medical care abroad are subject to the same rules and regulations as those who seek medical treatment in the US. There may be some differences in the types of expenses incurred. Example: medical travelers generally incur travel and lodging expenses not associated with domestic medical care. The type and quality of medical care vary from country to country; some treatments, therapies, or drugs administered in other countries may be seen as experimental in the US. Medical facilities may also be different, with services performed on both an in and outpatient basis. Lastly, some overseas providers may require a significant, upfront, lump-sum payment, which would make determining deductibility of expenses.
  2. Allowable Medical Expenses – in order to deduct the cost of medical travel, the expenses incurred must qualify as medical expenses rather than as personal or vacation expenses. To qualify as a medical expense, costs must be incurred for the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of a mental or physical illness or injury. The cost of equipment, supplies, medicines, and materials needed for the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, or cure of illnesses and abnormal conditions may include, but are not limited to some of the traditional medical expenses. Medical insurance premiums are also allowed to be deducted, as well as long-term care services and transportation costs related to treatment are also deductible. For medical travelers, transportation expenses and meals and lodging expenses are also deductible, under certain conditions (meals and lodging only).
  3. Potential Tax Benefit – in order for a medical traveler to derive any benefit from medical expenses, the taxpayer must have allowable medical expenses that exceed 10% of adjusted gross income (AGI) and must itemize. Choosing to itemize actual expenses implies that the taxpayer has expenses that exceed the standard deduction. They cannot deduct both the standard deduction and itemized expenses in the same tax year.
  4. Paying for Medical Care Abroad – paying for medical expenses while living or traveling abroad is different from paying for medical expenses domestically. Many providers out of the US do not bill insurance companies directly. US citizens living and working abroad may want to fund medical care through high-deductible medical plans in conjunction with health savings accounts (HSA’s). US citizens are taxed on all income worldwide; therefore establishing an HSA can provide significant tax benefits in addition to effectively fund out-o-pocket costs. They can also be used by US citizens traveling abroad for the sole purpose of medical care, as long as the services qualify for the treatment of medical expenses in the US.

The authors conclude their article by advising medical travelers planning to travel for the purpose of medical treatment to carefully consider all factors involved with the tax treatment of their expenses. Lastly, they should keep detailed records and documentation.

It is incumbent on the patient, and not the facilitator to thoroughly educate themselves about the benefits and liabilities they may face if they fail to properly account for all of there medical travel expenses. It would be a wise and customer-focused facilitator, well-versed in tax issues to advise all medical travelers so that they can realize even greater savings from the medical care they receive.

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Texas State House Seeks to Change Rules for Workers’ Comp

As reported this morning by Elena Mejia in the Houston Chronicle, members of a Texas State House committee are calling for major reforms to that state’s workers’ compensation program that would change coverage rules that now leave thousands of workers uninsured.

Yesterday, the House Committee on Business and Industry questioned state Insurance Department officials at length about employers who are now failing to provide coverage and continuing complaints about the state’s designated-doctor program.

Texas was the first and only state to allow employers to opt-out of the statutory workers’ comp system until Oklahoma passed legislation, that has since been ruled unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission.

Testimony given before the committee indicated that participation by physicians in the Designated Doctor Program, in which state-approved doctors examine injured workers to decide claims in disputed cases, has dropped precipitously.

According to Stephen Norwood of the Texas Orthopedic Association, participation is down 67 percent, mostly because the state does not reimburse physicians enough for expenses to travel to remote locations.

Mr. Norwood stated that, “All this time away and expense often unexpectedly to remote locations doesn’t make it feasible for physicians to participate,”… “If you allowed proper specialists to evaluate several workers during same travel, you increase access of workers to more appropriate exams and more efficiency to physicians.”

This testimony caught my eye, as generally, I don’t write specifically about one state, but take an overall, big picture view of the issues surrounding workers’ comp and discuss how medical travel can be implemented to relieve those issues.

This would be a perfect scenario for such implementation, so that injured workers in remote parts of Texas can get their treatment in Mexico that may be less expensive to travel to, rather than to have physicians to take the time and expense to travel to those remote locations.

But I suspect that that solution will elude the Texas legislators like so many other issues have eluded them, such as allowing women the right to have abortions, or the right of all workers to be covered under a mandatory state workers’ comp system that is fair to both injured workers and their employers.

But that would be asking too much of them. Sort of like asking the village idiot from Texas to not think about going to war in two countries at the same time.

 

Travel expense may be reimbursed under certain conditions

Just happened to come across the following blog post here on WordPress from a workers’ comp lawyer.

The lawyer, Karl Voigt, answered a question on another website about being reimbursed for travel expenses in the state of Pennsylvania.

His response is worth considering for the implementation of medical tourism into workers’ comp, for all other states, besides Pennsylvania.

“There is a compelling argument that the carrier should reimburse your costs. Until about 1992, workers’ compensation carriers would regularly have to reimburse Pennsylvania claimants for all travel expenses incurred treating their work injury. Unfortunately, following the issuance of an appellate case, Helen Mining Co. V. WCAB, 616 A.2d 759, the law changed. The courts can now only award travel expenses in cases where the requisite medical treatment is not available in your locale. If you can indeed prove that it was absolutely necessary to travel out-of-state for treatment, there is a good chance that your expenses should be reimbursed.”

If an employee, or his employer believes that it is necessary for the employee to get their surgery out of state, i.e., in another state or even another country, it may be argued that the work comp carrier would have to pay for it.

Yet, if the carrier went along with it in the first place, there would be no need to request reimbursement, as the surgery and travel expenses would be paid for. If the employer and the carrier determine that they can save money by having claimants go out of the country for medical care, then there would be no need for the courts to award travel expenses in the first place, thus freeing the claimant from the grip of the medical-legal system that workers’ comp law has created.