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N.J. Gov. Chris Christie says weight-loss surgery prompted by health concerns, not politics (or tax deductions)

I believe New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie when he says he decided to undergo weight-loss surgery because he wants to be healthier so he will be around for his family longer.

Obama and Christie talking with Hurricane Sandy victims October 2012_White House photo
President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talk with local residents in Brigantine, N.J., on Oct. 31, 2012, about damages caused by Hurricane Sandy. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

I haven't gone as far as gastric band surgery -- despite what I see in my mirrors, I'm not overweight enough to qualify for the procedure -- but I've made a concerted effort to exercise more the last couple of years and it's paid off. Not as much as I'd like, but I'm going to blame that on my perspective being warped over the years by overt and covert cultural proclamations that bonier is better, not my actual weight loss results.

But I also believe that Christie knows that losing weight will help him if he decides to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016. Note my "bonier is better" assessment in the previous paragraph.

'Healthy fat guy' had surgery in works: Christie apparently had already decided to have the surgery when he lashed out at the former White House doctor who said she feared the Garden State governor's excess weight could eventually lead to myriad health problems and possibly premature death.

"I'm the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen in your life," Christie told late-night TV host David Letterman on Feb. 7.

Of course, he said that knowing that he soon would be even healthier.

Sources told the New York Post, which broke the story of Christie's operation, that the gov checked into a surgery center on Feb. 16. He reportedly has already lost 40 pounds.

Writing off weight loss costs and more: As I mentioned months ago (and several times over the years), medically prescribed weight loss procedures are tax deductible. Note the doctor's requirement. Simply buying Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers products on your own does not qualify as a medical deduction.

In Christie's case, I suspect that he won't be able to claim the surgical expenses despite the cost of stomach stapling. Hence my headline's parenthetical tax deductions reference.

The deduction, which you must itemize to claim, can be taken on a 2013 tax return only for the amount of allowable medical costs that exceed 10 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI).

You're right, that's an increase from the previous 7.5 percent of AGI deduction threshold. And there is one exception. Taxpayers age 65 or older can still use the 7.5 percent deduction floor through tax year 2016.

But most taxpayers will need to rack up a lot of medical costs to clear the 10 percent of AGI deduction hurdle. If that is the case, though, then definitely consider taking the tax deduction, which is the first one found on Schedule A.

In addition to the allowable weight-loss program costs, here are some medical write-offs that folks often overlook:

  • Travel costs to get to and from medical treatments. If you drive to the doctor or to a pharmacy to pick up prescriptions or even attend a medical conference relating to your ailment, you can write off the distance at 24 cents per mile.
  • Insurance payments from already taxed income, including a portion of long-term care premiums.
  • Co-payments and uninsured medical costs, typically vision care (extra pair of prescription glasses or set of contact lenses), some dental treatments, hearing aids and artificial limbs.
  • Laser vision corrective surgery.
  • Alcohol- or drug-abuse treatments.
  • In-patient hospital care or nursing home services, including the cost of meals and lodging charged by the hospital or nursing home.
  • Acupuncture treatments.
  • Other medically necessary costs prescribed by a physician. For example, if your doctor told you to add a humidifier to your home's HVAC system to ease your kid's asthma, that cost could be at least partially deductible.

Cosmetic surgery generally isn't tax deductible. But if you need the services of a plastic surgeon for a medical reason (like Bristol Palin said she did), then you might be able to claim those costs, too.

You can find more on this topic in my Bankrate story on maximizing medical deductions. TurboTax has a handy medical deductions checklist. And you can get the official word from the IRS in its Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses.

You also might find these items of interest:


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