You can withdraw money early from both a traditional and a Roth IRA without a 10 percent penalty if you're paying medical expenses that aren't covered by insurance. The exception applies to unreimbursed medical expenses for your spouse, your dependents or yourself.
There's a limit on this exception, though. To avoid the 10 percent penalty, the amount you withdraw to cover medical expenses cannot exceed the total cost of the medical expenses minus 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income for the same tax year [source: IRS]. In other words, the IRS thinks that it's reasonable that you spend at least 7.5 percent of your salary on unreimbursed medical expenses before tapping into an IRA.
The IRS offers an additional exception for folks who are paying for their own medical insurance while unemployed. If you lose your job and collect state or federal unemployment compensation for at least 12 consecutive weeks, you can use IRA money to cover your medical insurance premiums penalty-free. Again, you may owe income tax on those distributions, but you are exempt from the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty.
For lots more information on IRAs, 401(k)s and the IRS, check out the links on the next page.