Congressman to Fitness Industry: Your Voice is Important

It’s vital health clubs build a relationship with their representatives and senators, but don’t just take our word for it. Congressman Ron Kind agrees and he’s been sponsoring the PHIT Act for 10 years.

Did you know as of August 2019 there are currently over 7,600 bills and resolutions before Congress? Of those 7,600 bills, there’s one that the fitness industry has been working on for a long time; The PHIT Act will 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.

A bill like this could potentially help save $116 billion a year in national healthcare costs. Let’s take a step back though—how likely is a bill to pass Congress? Looking at the last 19 years, on average, lawmakers introduced more than 12,000 bills and resolutions in each of the previous 10 two-year Congresses. According to GovTrack.us, of those bills, each Congress enacted an average of 417 laws. That’s only 3.43% of legislation becoming law.

So, what makes us think the PHIT Act stands a chance? It’s not because in 2018 PHIT passed the House of Representatives for the first time—although that’s pretty awesome. Nor is the fact the PHIT Act consistently brings in bipartisan support and is something on which members of all parties can agree. What makes PHIT stand out is the passion and dedication of the person who introduced the bill this year and has stood behind the importance of this bill for the last 10 years.

I’m talking about Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI), who recently answered a few questions for us about why the PHIT Act is so important to him and our country.

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Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI)

Congressman Kind, we want to thank you for introducing the PHIT Act. It’s hard to believe it, but you first introduced PHIT 10 years ago. What made you first interested in PHIT? What motivates you to keep introducing the bill?

As a former high school and college athlete, staying active has always been an important part of my life. I passed my passion for fitness on to my boys when they were young, and enjoyed watching them grow as athletes and team players. As a father, I wanted to make the healthy choice the easy choice, but realize that the costs of keeping active can be prohibitive to some families. The PHIT Act will help families invest in their health and give kids the tools they need to develop healthy fitness routines.

PHIT had 135 co-sponsors in the House last Congress. What is the relevance of this number and what effect might it have on PHIT’s eventual passage?

The strong bipartisan support of the PHIT Act clearly shows the enthusiasm for helping families make healthy decisions. We hope that this support helps harbor a fast passage of this important bill.

Given that the broader healthcare discussion has become so contentious and politicized, do you see a path forward for PHIT that can cut through all the “noise”?

The physical health and well-being of our kids isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue—it’s something we should all fight for. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass the PHIT Act and encourage everyone to hold the rhetoric and focus on what’s important—helping kids grow stronger and healthier.

We are quickly coming to the end of the first session of this Congress and will be heading into an election year next year. If we fail to pass PHIT this fall, what are our chances next year given the current status of the bill?

This is an easy, commonsense win for both sides. If we’re not able to get it passed this year, I’ll keep fighting to ensure physical fitness activities for kids are more affordable for families across the country.

We in the health club industry have enjoyed working with you and your staff on PHIT for several years. Our partnership on this issue has always been strong, but what more can we in the industry do to help you get this bill over the finish line?

As always—making your voice heard is important. Families in every Congressional district will benefit from the PHIT Act, so keep working with members and staff to bolster support will be the fastest path to success.

“The physical health and well-being of our kids isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue—it’s something we should all fight for.”

Ron Kind, Congressman

Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District

Join the Fight to Pass PHIT

As Congressman Kind says, your voice is critical in the fight to get PHIT passed. We cannot do it without you. Contact your member of Congress and tell them to support the PHIT Act. We have resources to help you make the case for physical activity and easily write your Congressperson a letter urging them to sponsor PHIT.

You can also share these resources with your social networks and talk to your staff, members, friends, and family about why we need to incentivize physical activity. Together, we can make exercise the easy choice.

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Kaitlynn Anderson Fernandez @IHRSA_Advocate

Kaitlynn Anderson Fernandez is IHRSA's Advocacy Content Manager. She uses her experience as a multimedia journalist to tell the story of IHRSA's advocacy and public policy efforts. Kaitlynn spends her free time watching sci-fi movies, boxing, or working towards her goal of being able to do five pull-ups (a skill that would come in handy in the event of a sci-fi-like apocalypse).