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What Is WHIP and How Will It Help Americans Get Active?

Our national political landscape is always changing. With the appointment of a new administration, we are in the midst of a cycle of change, characterized by changes to the healthcare system, changes to tax reform, changes to the way our country is run, and changes in how we perceive and act on information that is presented to us.

This change can be frightening for some, but just because it has the power to be, doesn’t mean that it has to be.

No matter what side of the political aisle you stand on and no matter what your personal beliefs on these changes are, one fact remains the same. These changes are working in favor of physical activity. Right now, there is a greater chance of getting our government to recognize the benefits physical activity has for all Americans and there is an even greater opportunity for our legislators to take significant and lasting actions that would increase the physically active population. Increasing access to exerciseby making it more affordable and accessibleis something that everyone can agree on.

Since healthcare reform has been one of the largest debates we have seen this year, the fitness and health industries have been primarily focused on increasing support for the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act. PHIT would allow Americans to use flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) to pay for health club memberships, fitness equipment, exercise videos, and youth sports leagues.

Though the fight to pass PHIT is far from over, the House of Representatives has recently shifted gears and is currently working to reach an agreement on a tax reform plan. This is where WHIP comes in.

WHIP is short for the Workplace Health Improvement Program Act. Basically, WHIP would allow employers to offer their employees off-site fitness center subsidies without those subsidies being subject to a tax.

Many years ago, Congress was frustrated with corporations that were writing off the cost of dining clubs and other executive perks as a tax deductible subsidy, so they passed a law that prohibited this practice. The only problem was the bill they passed also included health clubs.

Now, fast forward to today. Eighty-two percent of Americans say that they would exercise more regularly if their employer subsidized a fitness center membership. So, as Congress begins to discuss important tax reform proposals, now is the time to promote WHIP as an important technical correction to the tax code and spread the word about how it will allow employers and employees to more easily benefit from workplace wellness programs.

Here is where WHIP stands in the legislative process: 

  • WHIP must be introduced in the 115th Congress. In the Senate, Senator Cornyn (R-TX), a very strong WHIP sponsor in the 114th Congress will once again be the primary sponsor. In the House, we are working to find a new Republican champion.
  • Once WHIP is introduced, there needs to be a plan in place that is designed to increase the number of bipartisan sponsors and work with Congressional leadership to include WHIP in any tax reform measure.
  • We want to hear from you. Complete this brief survey and let us know if you know any Congressional influencers who could help us advance this bill. 

Change happens all the time, but true change comes from within. If each one of us makes the personal decision to commit to advancing healthy lifestyles, you would be amazed by what we can achieve.