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Entries in WHIP (9)


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.

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

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IHRSA Tax Weekend Challenge Produces 750 Messages to Congress

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Congratulations, the IHRSA Tax Weekend Challenge in support of the PHIT Act and the WHIP Act generated just over 750 messages to Congressional leaders and Senators across the country! The PHIT Act would allow Americans to use pre-tax accounts like Flexible Savings Accounts and Health Savings Accounts to pay for gym membership and other fitness costs, such as youth sports leagues. The WHIP Act would prevent Americans who have access to employer subsidized gym membership from being taxed on the value.

We are so proud of our members and friends for speaking with one voice about the benefits of exercise, and why changing the tax code to incentivize fitness will improve the quality of life, pocketbook, and medical outcome for Americans.

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If you didn’t have the chance to send your message this weekend, please take a moment to send one now.

Thank you for participating in IHRSA’s federal advocacy efforts. If you would like to learn about further grassroots involvement, please contact IHRSA Public Policy Assistant Suzanne Trainor at


Kicking Off the IHRSA Tax Weekend Challenge: Support Tax Incentives for Fitness

(Click to enlarge)The federal tax deadline in April isn’t exactly the celebration we all look forward to each year. But what if the federal tax code was altered to encourage working out at an IHRSA fitness facility? 

IHRSA is launching the IHRSA Tax Weekend Challenge to support two pieces of legislation pending in the 114th Congress that would use the tax code as a vehicle to increase physical fitness: the PHIT Act, or Personal Health Investment Today Act (H.R. 1218) and the WHIP Act, or Workforce Health Improvement Program Act (S. 2296). 

The PHIT Act would allow Americans to use flexible savings accounts (FSA) and health savings accounts (HSA) to pay for health club memberships and other fitness expenses. Individuals would be able to budget pre-tax up to $1,000 per year towards gym membership; families could tap up to $2,000 per year. Under existing Internal Revenue Service code, FSAs and HSAs can only be used to pay for medical expenses, e.g. prescriptions and doctor visits.

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The WHIP Act would prevent employees who are offered employer sponsored health club membership from paying a tax on the benefit. Current tax law imposes the income tax on the value of the membership, unless the fitness center is located on-site of the employer. 

Participating in the challenge today—visit the IHRSA Action Center to send a message to your representative and senators in Washington D.C., asking them to support PHIT and WHIP as important tax incentives to get Americans moving again.

Physical inactivity is the cause of one in 10 deaths worldwide, while increased levels of physical activity can help to prevent cancer and chronic debilitating diseasesWith in one in two men and one in three women expected to be diagnosed with a form of cancer in their lifetime, and cancer costs estimated at $216 billion per year to the U.S. economy, increasing access to fitness as a preventative health measure should be a priority for Congress.

Visit the IHRSA Action Center to advocate in favor of the PHIT Act and the WHIP Act during the IHRSA Tax Weekend Challenge, April 14 through April 19.

Thank you for standing up for fitness!


Why Passing WHIP and PHIT Increases Access to Exercise

Imagine a day when federal legislation would afford favorable tax treatment to club memberships, regarding them as an employee benefit, rather than treating them as additional, and, therefore, taxable income.

Then, beyond that, imagine a day when government and the healthcare community would recognize the importance of exercise as an effective preventative measure by permitting club members to treat part of the cost of their membership as a qualified medical expense.

Those sunny days might, in fact, be approaching. Recent developments in Washington, D.C., suggest that physical activity has once again become a prominent topic of discussion on Capitol Hill.

Most notably, in November, the Workforce Health Improvement (WHIP) Act, which IHRSA has supported since 2003, was reintroduced in Congress by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). This act would make it easier for firms to offer club memberships to their employees. The current tax law permits companies to deduct, as a regular business expense, the cost of either onsite or offsite exercise facility subsidies for employees. Employees who take advantage of the offsite benefit must pay income tax on the value of the subsidy, while those who make use of an onsite facility aren’t required to do so.

The WHIP bill, if enacted, would resolve this inequity. It would eliminate the tax on offsite fitness center subsidies, and allow employers to deduct the cost of the benefit regardless of where the fitness services are provided.

The WHIP Act isn’t the only physical activity bill poised for passage. For the past nine years, IHRSA also has been working to promote the adoption of the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, which was reintroduced in September.

The PHIT Act would encourage more Americans to become physically active by providing them with a tax incentive that would help them pay for club memberships, fitness equipment, workout videos, and youth sports league fees. The act would change the current federal tax law, allowing individuals to make such purchases using the money held in their flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health savings accounts (HSAs), or medical savings accounts (MSAs).

Like the WHIP Act, the PHIT Act has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance for approval.

IHRSA has worked diligently to promote passage of these legislative initiatives, since they’d provide real benefits for the association’s member clubs. The WHIP Act would provide incentive for companies to fund memberships for their employees, while the PHIT Act would help people pay for a variety of fitness-related expenses.

A number of broader implications are posited by these acts. If enacted, both of these bills would promote healthy lifestyles as an important form of preventative medicine, helping to reduce overall government, businesses’, and personal medical costs. The bills would also, over time, lead to a healthier population, increased worker productivity, and lower rates of absenteeism among employees.

These are goals that the health and fitness club industry constantly strives towards. Therefore, it’s crucial that we work to increase the number of cosponsors for both bills by reaching out to members of Congress, and asking them to endorse and support WHIP and PHIT. “Primary prevention—supported by legislation such as the WHIP Act and other public policy initiatives—is the most cost-effective means of securing the future health of Americans,” observes Helen Durkin, J.D., IHRSA’s executive vice president of public policy.

Working together as an industry, and with the support of forward-thinking legislators, we can make primary prevention a reality.


IHRSA Applauds Introduction of Senate WHIP Act

IHRSA voiced its ardent support of the Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act (S. 2296), introduced today by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). Introduction of this important piece of legislation is a fundamental step in providing American employers and employees with the tools they need to help stop the devastating health trend toward inactivity and obesity in America. 

"IHRSA commends Senator Cornyn for his admirable leadership and foresight in seeing how wellness in the workplace is an issue that translates into a stronger U.S. economy,” said Joe Moore, president and CEO of IHRSA. "By keeping workers healthy, we control the cost of health care, increase productivity, and bolster the ability of America’s businesses to compete in a global economy. Undoubtedly, primary prevention—supported by legislation like the WHIP Act and other public policy endeavors—is the most cost-effective means of securing the future health and prosperity of America. The WHIP Act takes a significant step in this direction.”

Under current tax law, businesses small and large are permitted to deduct the cost of on-site exercise facilities, and employees are not taxed on the benefit. However, if an employer provides this same benefit at an off-site facility, employees who take advantage of the benefit must pay income tax on the value of the subsidy. 

This requirement is in direct contradiction to the goal of promoting healthful activity in the workplace and is simply unfair to employees of firms who are unable to provide an onsite fitness center to all employees. The WHIP Act would eliminate this inequity, reaffirming employers’ right to deduct the cost of providing off-site health club or gym benefits and preventing this wellness benefit from being considered additional income for employees. 

“The WHIP Act will help America’s businesses build a strong employee base,” Moore said. “Since many employers do not have the resources or office space to offer on-site exercise rooms and fitness programs, the WHIP Act makes it easier for all employers to offer health-promoting exercise incentives to their workers without any tax complications. The introduction of the WHIP Act makes it clear that Senator Cornyn is a champion of primary prevention, and is truly committed to improving the health of all Americans.”

To learn more and join the campaign visit


House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) Enthusiastically Endorses PHIT

During a meeting attended by IHRSA representatives last week, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) talked about health clubs and acknowledged the need to expand the eligible expenses covered by Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending accounts (FSAs) to include fitness center memberships and other programs of physical activity.

He also praised fellow Louisiana Congressman Charles Boustany (R-LA) for introducing the PHIT bill (H.R. 1218), which would do just that. Scalise reminded the audience that, as former Chairman of the powerful Republican Study Committee (RSC), he supported inclusion of PHIT-style language in the RSC’s response to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).   

Scalise could not have offered a stronger endorsement for PHIT and given his rising star status among House Republicans - he is running for the powerful position of House Majority Leader -  his support could be pivotal in the effort to move PHIT toward eventual enactment.

In order to keep up the momentum, IHRSA will be setting up meetings with his staff in Washington to explore more specific tactics for advancing PHIT in this Congress. Stay tuned.


It's time to talk about PHIT and WHIP

Image courtesy of WKRNYou are probably sick of hearing about New Year's resolutions, and that getting in shape and losing weight are two of the most popular. Maybe getting money back from your gym memberships will get you to listen to one more (no guarantees, though). 

The Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT) allows for expenditures of up to $2,000 for physical fitness programs and exercise equipment to be payable out of pre-tax health investment accounts such as flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and/or medical reimbursement arrangements. 




Recently a TV station in Nashville, Tenn., aired a story about how PHIT and the Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP), last introduced in October 2012, getting passed would save the United States billions of dollars in health care costs. It would allow employers to deduct the cost of employees using off-site exercise facilities. Currently employers can only dedcut the cost if the facility is onsite. IHRSA contributed to the story with information and statistics.

Click here to see and read the story. 


Combating obesity requires multiple approaches

At the beginning of the summer, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg created a national stir when he proposed legislation banning the sale of super-sized beverages (over 16 ounces) at fast food restaurants and other establishments like movie theaters. In the past month, there has been much debate over whether this law would really contribute to reducing obesity and chronic disease.

Last week, a report published online in the New England Journal of Medicine found that if all consumers reduce their drink size from 32 to 16 ounces, it would shave about 63 calories off each fast food meal. However, if only 30% of consumers do this, the effect is marginal.

Sixty-three calories doesn’t seem like a lot, but according to researcher Dr. Brian Elbel, “[It’s] not nothing. It's a reasonable number to expect from any single policy. If you get a few different policies that have this impact, then they could have a much larger impact overall."

In short, there is not one single solution to the obesity and chronic disease epidemic facing the United States, just as there is no single cause. Therefore, our response must include several different approaches, including IHRSA supported legislation like the Workforce Health Improvement Program Act (WHIP) and the Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT). WHIP and PHIT would provide easier access to physical activity by incentivizing health club memberships.

Visit to learn more about WHIP and PHIT.


WHIP Act is a solution for small businesses

It seems like a no-brainer – wellness programs for employees, which, in turn, according to numerous studies, results in reduced absenteeism and increased productivity.

Due to limited resources, small- and medium-sized businesses are having a harder time participating. But two US Senators, John Cornyn (R-TX) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), are sponsoring The Workforce Health Improvement Program Act (S. 1644). The act would eliminate the tax incurred by an employee when they take part in an employee-provided wellness benefit at an off-site facility.

A recent to FOX Small Business News report shows that more large US employers are working on creative ways to help their staff lose weight and change sedentary behavior. And a FOX News commentary on New York City’s banning of soft drinks also mentioned The WHIP Act.

For more information, visit