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Physical Activity Tax Incentive (PHIT Act) Clears Major Hurdle in Congress

Date: 7/21/14

SILVER SPRING, MD – July 21, 2014 – The Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT HR956) took a major step forward recently when Congress released its estimate of the investment Americans would make in physical activity if allowed to use money in pre-tax medical accounts, also known as a score.  The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation reported that Americans would invest $2.5 billion over 10 years if PHIT was passed. With most physical activity coming at a price, finding ways to reduce the financial barrier to participation in active lifestyles has become imperative. PHIT would encourage active, healthy lifestyles by offsetting the expense of physical activity using pre-tax dollars.

“The PHIT revenue estimate is a significant step in the process since it gives Congress an idea of how much Americans will use pre-tax medical accounts to cover physical activity expenses,” said Bill Sells, Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs for the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA).  “It is widely accepted that physically active people are healthier than sedentary people.  PHIT will provide an incentive to become and remain physically active and lead to improved health.  With 23 Republicans and 22 Democrats, PHIT is one of the few healthcare improvement bills that is truly bi-partisan which makes it an attractive option in a divided Congress.”
 
Knowing the financial impact is critical to Congress’ consideration of tax legislation, but with the elections just around the corner, Congress is in full political mode and unlikely to accomplish much in the 18 days they will be in Washington before the November elections. Fortunately, the cost estimate (score) will carry-over to future years as Congress explores ways to reduce healthcare spending.  
 
“Having vast experience with the inner-workings of Congress, we know how difficult obtaining a score is in D.C.,” said Tom Cove, SFIA President & CEO. “For anyone that has attended SFIA’s National Health Through Fitness Day, having a score is vital to passing PHIT. This is a major step in the right direction and we will continue our work to pass the PHIT Act for our members and for the well-being of our society.”
 
The PHIT legislation would change the IRS definition of a “medical expense” to include physical activity as a form of prevention. Expanding the medical expense definition would make physical activity expenses reimbursable using pre-tax dollars in Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts and would allow consumers to deduct physical activity costs once they meet the 7.5 percent of income threshold on medical expenses. Eligible expenses would include sports and fitness equipment solely used to participate in a physical activity, gym memberships, fitness & exercise classes, youth & adult sports’ registration fees, lessons & clinics. 
 
“This is great news,” says Jim Baugh, Founder of PHIT America. “When we talked to other members of Congress to support the PHIT Act, many asked, ‘Has it been scored?’ Now we know the amount and the news is positive. It’s worth noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that for every dollar spent on physical activity, it generates a savings of $3.20 per person in medical expenses, which means the PHIT Act, if passed, could generate a savings of more than $8 billion for the U.S. in health care expenses over the course of the next 10 years. This shows the PHIT Act is true healthcare – preventing healthcare costs.”
 

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