SNAP and the Medical Expense Deduction


What is the SNAP Medical Expense Deduction?

The medical expense deduction is an income deduction that eligible households can claim to boost their monthly SNAP benefits. Out-of-pocket health care expenses can be claimed by older adults age 60+ and individuals with disabilities. Adults and children qualify as disabled if they receive SSI or Social Security as disabled, EAEDC cash assistance or MassHealth as disabled or another disability-based benefit. 

  • The household member must have at least $35/month in unreimbursed medical costs to claim this deduction. If the household claims at least $35/month, DTA calculates SNAP with a standard medical expense deduction of $155/month
  • Medical expenses under $190/month can be self-declared - over the phone when talking with DTA or in writing. Here's DTA's Medical Expense self declaration form
  • For households with expenses above $190/month, see below.  

Why is the Medical Expense Deduction important?

The lower the "countable net income" DTA uses to calculate SNAP benefits, the higher the SNAP, up to the maximum SNAP allotment. As a general rule of thumb, every $3 less in countable net income increases SNAP by $1. Visit the SNAP Calculators page to learn how SNAP benefits are calculated. Or you can jump to the Online SNAP calculator here

Not every elder/disabled household will benefit from claiming medical costs. MLRI has created a series of "At-A-Glance Charts" that help you figure out how much a household will get, including a special chart to help you understand when medical expenses make a difference for SNAP recipients whose rent is 30% of their unearned income. 

What kind of health care expenses qualify for the medical deduction?

A wide range of costs that are not reimbursed or covered by health insurance count for the medical deduction. Medical expenses for non-elder/disabled household members unfortunately do not count. Examples of allowable health care expenses:

  • Health insurance premiums
  • Co-payments for health care visits or prescriptions
  • Acupuncture, chiropractic care, physical and occupational therapy
  • Vitamins and herbal treatments
  • Health care supplies and equipment, incontinence supplies, home health aides, home maker services, care attendants
  • "Medicine chest" items including over-the-counter drugs, ointments, other treatments that are recommended or prescribed by a licensed health care practitioner
  • Eyeglasses, contacts, lens solutions; hearing aids, batteries; dental care, dentures and adhesives
  • The costs of public transport, taxis, ride shares to health care appointments and pharmacies
  • Use of a private car to health care appointments and pharmacies - calculated by multiplying the number of round trip miles by the current federal mileage rate. (DTA calculates the mileage using MapQuest or Google Maps between locations.)
  • One time medical bills for which there is no 3rd party reimbursement. A one-time bill can be averaged out in different ways to ensure the household's SNAP is maximized. 

What if the household has high medical expenses?  

Again, a household that has at least $35 in medical expenses can self-declare these any time - when talking with a SNAP worker by phone, filling out an application or recertification or if a household wants to send a letter to DTA about their medical costs. DTA's simple medical expense form is posted here - available in 5 languages.  DTA will give the household a standard $155 medical expense deduction in the SNAP math.. 

However, if a household claims more than $190/month in health care costs (that's the $35 threshold plus $155 standard deduction), the household must provide DTA with proofs of all expenses claimed.   

Here are EXAMPLES of documents to send DTA, for households claiming $190 or more in out of pocket expenses: 

  • A print-out or bill from a health provider showing co-payments and date of service
  • Pharmacy printouts of prescription drug costs and purchase dates. 
  • Receipts for over-the-counter medications or health supplies (herbal remedies, vitamins, etc) recommended by a health provider (a prescription is not required)
  • Transportation receipts from the RIDE, the cost of an MBTA pass, taxi or ride share fees, bus fare. Note, for private vehicle transportation to a doctor, pharmacy or any health care location.
  • Bills or statements showing private insurance premiums and deductibles 
  • Any other paperwork that shows medical costs incurred by an elder and/or disabled member of the SNAP household.
  • For public/subsidized tenants, a copy of the "rent calculation worksheet" if medical expenses were claimed for rent purposes. For more information, see MLRI's How to Lower Your Rent and Boost Your SNAP Benefits: An Advocacy Tool Kit for Mass Tenants

FAQs, Tool Kits and DTA Guidance on medical expenses: