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Physical Activity Bill Can Impact Sports Participation & National Fitness
Legislation to encourage increased physical activity in America has been re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week. Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) introduced the Personal Health Investment Today Act of 2011 (PHIT) in the 112th Congress. The PHIT Bill was offered with strong bipartisan support. Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Ron Kind (D-WI), Bill Shuster (R-PA), Mike McIntrye (D-NC), William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Ron Paul (R-TX), C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersburger (D-MD), Jim Gerlach (R-PA), and Joe Barton (R-TX) joined Brady as original co-sponsors of the PHIT (Personal Health Investment Today) Bill.
The PHIT Act would change current federal tax law to allow for the deduction or use of pre-tax dollars to cover expenses related to sports, fitness and other physical activities. Americans could invest up to $2,000 annually to pay for physical activities by investing money in existing pre-tax Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Medical Savings Accounts (MSA) and/or medical reimbursement arrangements. The PHIT Act would only expand the expenses eligible for reimbursement to include physical activity costs as a form of prevention; PHIT would not increase contribution limits to these accounts. Once an individual or family spends 7.5% of their income on qualified medical expenses, they can deduct physical activity expenses directly.
“We have been very active in leading the effort on this initiative in recent years and we are delighted to see Representative Brady leading the effort on this legislation,” said Bill Sells, the Sporting Good Manufacturers Association's (SGMA) vice president of government relations. “For the consumer, it reduces expenses associated with exercise, fitness and sports participation through the use of funds in pre-tax accounts. By encouraging more physical activity through financial incentives, we will improve health, reduce medical costs and lower absenteeism in schools and the workplace. PHIT has the potential to make a big difference in people’s lives, the economy and health care spending.”
On Wednesday, July 27, the Congressional Youth Sports Caucus announced its legislative agenda for this Congress and the PHIT Act is included.
“More than 50% of all health care costs are attributable to environmental issues within our control—namely, exercising more and eating healthier,” said Brian Jolles, president of Jolles Insurance (Ellicott City, Maryland), a broker for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. “While many people are talking about the obesity epidemic, our country needs to do something about it. If we are ever going to get health care costs under control, we need to focus on prevention. There is no question that the PHIT Bill is a major step in the right direction.”
“Active children equal healthier lives,” said Sally Johnson, executive director of the National Council of Youth Sports (Stuart, Florida). “There are many advantages to sports participation and leading a healthy lifestyle – reduced childhood obesity rates, better grades, improved attention at school, lowered health care costs, etc. Allowing for the reimbursement of physical activity expenses using pre-tax dollars thru PHIT will ease the financial burden for families and reduce the costs of physical activity to encourage healthier lifestyles as well as improve health in America.”
“Regular physical activity is the best preventive medicine we can prescribe,” said Brady, an eight-term congressman who is a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. “This bill will give people another incentive to get active – to participate in that exercise class, join a sports team, or sign up for a fitness program.”
With Brady, Kind, Gerlach, and Blumenauer all serving on the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee, the prospects for PHIT are improved. Health care reform remains a top priority in Washington and PHIT is consistent with reducing health costs – a primary objective of reform efforts.
The National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity has actively supported PHIT since its initial introduction.