PHIT Act Reintroduced in U.S. Congress

IHRSA, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) and other organizations supporting fitness and sports programs and facilities are celebrating bipartisan legislation that allows flexible spending and health savings accounts to be used for physical activity products and services as well as youth sports.

The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act was reintroduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on March 14, and is designed to encourage healthier lifestyles, provide financial incentives to ease burdens for healthy behavior, and increase the ability of persons of all ages to engage in more active behaviors.

IHRSA has previously noted that these flexible spending and health savings accounts allow eligible users to designate up to the maximum—$3,050 in 2023—pre-tax to an employer-managed account to purchase nonprescription items, glasses, sunblock, bandages, over-the-counter products, and a variety of products and services to protect and improve their health. This includes services like in-home lead paint abatement, disability adaptive programs and services, transportation for medical appointments and services, as well as thousands of products sold by retailers, drug stores and suppliers.

While approximately 30 million Americans use the flex accounts, approximately half of all users forfeit a combined $400 million to $500 million each year, funds that revert to employers if not used in full within the required time constraint. Every dollar consumers contribute to flex accounts is tax-free and reduces their taxable income by that amount—up to the annual limit. Most government employees and 43% of private sector employees have access to these programs.

“The PHIT Act is good policy in Washington, D.C., because it brings equity to the tax treatment of products and services that directly benefit the physical and mental health of consumers,” said IHRSA President & CEO Liz Clark. “The health and fitness industry is as diverse as the communities we serve, and that is why more than 70 million consumers regularly visit clubs, studios, classes, community programs and other group and structured exercise programs. Better fitness improves individual health, community health, will support better military recruitment and retention, and help provide vital mental and physical health for all Americans. We applaud our bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate and look forward to mobilizing our nationwide grassroots coalition to push for passage.”

Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) are leading the Senate effort to pass PHIT, and Congressmen Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) are spearheading the House campaign.

“As a lifelong athlete and fitness enthusiast, I understand the value of and feel grateful to have access to gyms and fitness equipment,” said Sen. John Thune. “For some Americans, though, certain gym or athletic league membership costs can be prohibitive, keeping them from pursuing healthy habits like exercising or participating in other physical activities. By giving Americans greater flexibility with their HSAs and FSAs, we can empower people to make healthy choices, get active and hopefully avoid the onset of costly chronic conditions.”

“Joining a local gym or signing your kids up for little league are great ways for families to get healthy and connect with their community, but those fees can be really expensive,” stated Sen. Chris Murphy, “This bipartisan legislation would allow people to use their pre-tax medical accounts to cover those expenses. It is a smart investment that would help more Americans prioritize their health, lead active lives, and connect with others.”

“Every child deserves the right to be healthy,” said Wayne Moss, executive director, National Council of Youth Sports. “Youth sports is a fun pathway to healthy lifestyles and leads to positive physical, social and emotional outcomes. Sports also serve as a protective factor for risky behavior. The PHIT Act will reduce participation barriers and allow more young people to participate. This bipartisan legislation will help mitigate the physical and mental health challenges created by COVID-19.”

“The pandemic gave us a new appreciation for the physical and mental health benefits of activity,” said Tom Cove, president & CEO, SFIA. “The PHIT Act is a common sense solution to allow more Americans to participate in sports, exercise and recreate in the outdoors by making such activities more affordable and accessible. SFIA applauds Senators Thune and Murphy and Congressmen Kelly and Panetta for their strong commitment to improving the health of every American, and we pledge to work worth with our congressional champions to pass the PHIT Act.”