Boston — January 4, 2018 — While Americans nationwide are planning out their New Year’s resolutions to get in shape and lead healthier lives, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is urging Congress to pass a law that would support people in their healthy living efforts. The broadly supported, bipartisan bill is called the Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT).
PHIT is federal legislation that would let people use pre-tax accounts, like Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), to pay for qualified fitness expenses, including youth sports fees, exercise equipment, health club membership, and other exercise costs. If passed, families could use $2,000 pre-tax for fitness activities, and individuals up to $1,000—effectively saving consumers 20-30% on exercise costs.
“The universal appeal of this legislation is that it supports people in their personal efforts to take charge of their health by being physically active,” said Helen Durkin, IHRSA’s executive vice president of public policy. “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.”
As the healthcare landscape continues to shift, “Americans’ drive to be independent, prevent disease/illness, and stay healthy has caused a spike in self-care,” according to Nielsen’s Health and Wellness 2020 Report.The Nielsen report also states that “U.S. consumers are growing increasingly concerned of the rising costs associated with traditional healthcare.”
Yet, the current IRS code for HSAs and FSAs is still very focused on the traditional treatment of existing health problems. Currently taxpayers can use these accounts to pay for doctor visits, medical procedures, and prescription medications. But the ability to use HSAs and FSAs for expenses related to lifestyle medicine—healthy practices, like exercise, that help prevent disease in the first place—is limited.
So far, PHIT has won tremendous bipartisan support in Congress—likely because it would help make a diﬀerence for hard-working Americans across the entire country by giving them greater choice in how their healthcare dollars are spent. To date, 118 members of Congress have signed on, with strong support from both Republicans and Democrats alike.
For many citizens, overcoming the barriers that prevent them from exercising—cost being one of the largest—proves challenging. If Congress passed PHIT, it would send an important message to the American people, declaring its recognition of the inactivity crisis and its willingness to support access to healthy lifestyles.
Imagine if a family could use their pre-tax savings to pay the fee for their 10-year-old to play on a community soccer team so he learns to be physically active, or if a single-mom could use these accounts to pay for a yoga class to help better manage stress, or if a 60-something living alone could use those dollars to improve his balance through a tai chi class at the local gym. These taxpayers would be more likely to take steps toward better health, adding up in the long term to savings for the healthcare system.
“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,” Durkin continued. “PHIT just requires a simple adjustment to the tax code. But more importantly, it’s 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.”
For more information on how PHIT—Senate Bill (S.482) and House Bill (H.R.1267)—would make physical activity an easier financial choice for all people, visit IHRSA's PHIT page and download “The Case for Exercise,” background information on PHIT, and “Why Congress should pass PHIT.”
The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is a not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs and suppliers worldwide.
IHRSA maintains a leadership role in advancing physical activity, which is critical to America’s health and the battle against obesity and chronic lifestyle diseases. IHRSA supports policies that promote more active lifestyles to foster a healthier, happier, more prosperous America. For media inquiries, please contact IHRSA public relations.