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Feature Story

February 2018


Bipartisan PHIT Act Could Boost America's Wellness

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By Dave Ramont

It's that time of year when many of us are realizing that we've already fallen short of our fitness and exercise resolutions that we so optimistically made several weeks ago. But now, to help encourage Americans to lead a more physically active lifestyle, the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) has announced its support of a bill in Congress that would boost such efforts.

The bipartisan bill is called the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act. It's federal legislation that would allow the use of pre-tax accounts, like Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), to pay for youth sports fees, health club memberships, exercise equipment and other qualifying fitness expenses. According to the bill, individuals could use up to $1,000 pre-tax and families up to $2,000 toward various exercise costs, saving users an estimated 20 percent to 30 percent.

HSAs and FSAs, under the current IRS code, can be used for so-called "sick care," including prescription medicines, doctor visits and medical procedures. But healthy lifestyle practices such as exercise, which are proven to aid in preserving health and preventing disease, are not covered. Though more and more, with consumers becoming increasingly concerned with rising healthcare costs, according to Nielsen's Health and Wellness 2020 Report, their efforts to be independent and practice self-care has spiked.

Helen Durkin is IHRSA's executive vice president of public policy, and she believes that the universal appeal of this legislation is that it encourages people in their own efforts to be physically active and take charge of their own health. "PHIT would be a real boon for primary prevention and for the growing interest among consumers to proactively take care of their health to control their healthcare costs."

Durkin added that implementing the bill just requires a simple adjustment to the tax code. "PHIT is really about empowering people to choose how their hard-earned dollars are spent so making the health-sustaining choice is so much easier," she said.

By passing PHIT, Congress could send an important message to Americans, recognizing that more people should exercise regularly and supporting them in their quest for healthier lifestyles. A senior might be encouraged to take an exercise class at a local gym; a mom might use the savings to help pay for her kids' soccer or baseball fees, or to take a stress-lowering yoga class. So far, there has been strong support for the bill from both Democrats and Republicans, with 118 members of Congress signing on.

IHRSA is a not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities of all types. The association supports policies that promote active lifestyles, and works to advance physical activity in the fight against obesity and chronic lifestyle diseases.

Durkin said that this bill involves a common-ground issue that everyone can stand behind. "While helping hard-working Americans today, PHIT would move us toward a healthier, stronger nation for tomorrow."


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