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Healthcare Reform, Tax Reform, Or Another Kind of Reform? Which One Can Help Pass PHIT?

Unfortunately, the answer is not simple.

To get a better understanding of the current political climate in Washington, we spoke with IHRSA’s federal lobbyist, Jay Sweeney, to get his expert opinion on the changes that have been happening and what they mean for health clubs and their members.

“I have a background in health and healthier lifestyles since three of my family members are physicians. Weas a familyhave always been committed to living healthy and being active. So that’s really how I got associated with the industry, and I’ve been doing that ever since,” said Sweeney who has been working on behalf of IHRSA and health clubs for more than a decade.

We are grateful to have his guidance to help us sort through the unanswered questions surrounding reform efforts on Capitol Hill and how choices that are being made ultimately impact our industry.

To Reform or Not to Reform…

Last weekto the surprise of manythe Senate voted to reject the latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), effectively nullifying the healthcare reform debate until after Congress returns from its summer recess. However, this does not mean that efforts to pass federal bills incentivizing physical activity—like PHIT and WHIP—will stall.

“Now that the bigger healthcare reform bill has stalled, it’s time for members of Congress to move on to something like a PHIT/WHIP package since PHIT enjoys bipartisan support, unlike many other options that were discussed in the broader context of healthcare reform,” said Sweeney. “PHIT is a tax bill, and there could be opportunities to move this piece of legislation as part of this type of reform.”

For example, the Children’s Health Insurance Program is set to expire at the end of September, and Congress must act on this if they wish for the program to continue. This program does include various tax provisions, so a bill like PHIT and/or WHIP could certainly be moved as part of this package if the legislature agrees to do so.

PHIT vs. WHIP and Why Timing Is Everything

There has been a lot of recent discussion surrounding the reasoning behind the industry’s focus on PHIT versus WHIP and why that is. Really the answer is simple: because timing is everything.

Because the hope was to attach PHIT to a larger healthcare reform package, it made sense to focus on PHIT while the discussions of healthcare reform were happening.

How Can Clubs Get Involved?

Timing really is everything, and right now the timing is right for clubs to take action to get these pieces of legislation passed.

Currently, PHIT has roughly 70 bipartisan supporters in the House and the Senate, and the IHRSA team with its members are determined to increase the number co-sponsors who sign on in the coming months.

“I wish I had the magic number that I could use to say ‘if we get this amount of sponsors then the bill will pass,’ but that is not the case,” said Sweeney. “While it’s not productive to focus on a specific number, a greater number simply indicates the amount of support behind a particular concept or idea. The number of co-sponsors is important simply because the more we can get, the better.”

Therefore, it’s crucial that club operators reach out to their representatives while they are home in their districts to voice their support for PHIT. They should ask their member of Congress to sign on as a co-sponsor upon their return to Washington, D.C., in the fall.

“We are living in very different times now, this Congress is operating in a way that is very different...and we need to continue to be persistent. What we’re engaged in is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. We need to continue with outreach and keep pushing to get this bill across the finish line despite any frustrations that may arise that we cannot control,” said Sweeney.

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