Physical Fitness Bill Introduced in Congress
by SportsOneSource Media
According to the SGMA, Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) has introduced the Personal Health Investment Today Act of 2009 (PHIT) in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Zach Wamp (R-TN) joined Kind in sponsoring the PHIT 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. PHIT 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 could deduct physical activity expenses directly.
“SGMA has been supporting this bill in recent years and we are delighted to see that Representative Ron Kind is leading the effort on this legislation,” said Bill Sells, SGMA VP 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 via financial incentives, we will improve health, reduce medical costs and lower absenteeism at school and in the workplace. PHIT has the potential to make a big difference in people’s lives, the economy and health care spending.”
“Regular physical activity is the best preventive medicine we can prescribe,” said Kind, a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. “This bill will give people the incentive they need to get active – to participate in that exercise class, join an intramural sports team, or sign up for a gym membership.”
With Kind, Blumenauer and Brady all serving on the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee, the prospects for PHIT are improved. Health care reform is a top priority in Washington and PHIT is consistent with reducing health costs – a primary objective of reform efforts.
One of the main reasons PHIT is getting attention on Capitol Hill is due to the Congressional support generated by physical activity advocates last month during SGMA’s National Health Through Fitness Day (NHTF). On NHTF Day, a delegation of well known athletes, sporting goods and fitness manufacturers, sports retailers, concerned citizens, physical educators and association leaders met with Members of the U.S. House and Senate to encourage passage of two legislative initiatives that will help Americans (of all ages) become more physically active and healthy. In addition to PHIT, the sports industry also promoted higher funding for quality physical education through the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP). PEP provides grants to school districts and community based organizations for innovative physical education and activity methods. Since 2001, PEP has provided close to $600 million for equipment purchases and P.E. training.
“Both pieces of legislation are important,” said Sells. “Basically, PEP provides support to school-age children while PHIT will provide financial incentives for all Americans to lead more active and healthy lives.”