Several federal lawmakers recently reintroduced the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, a bipartisan legislation to allow flexible spending and health savings accounts (HSA) for physical activity products, services and youth sports.
The legislation would encourage physical activity and incentivize healthier living by allowing Americans to use a portion of the money saved in their pre-tax health savings account (HSA) and flexible spending account (FSA) toward qualified sports and fitness purchases, such as gym memberships, fitness equipment, and youth sports league fees.
“As a former college football player and youth football coach myself, I’ve seen young Americans greatly improve their lives because they were able to join a team and play sports,” said U.S. Representative Mike Kelly.
“This bill gives kids, especially those in underserved or low-income communities, a real chance to play the sport of their choice. This isn’t just about athletics: it’s about gaining critical team-building and character-building traits that stay with kids for the rest of their lives. I thank the National Football League, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball for supporting our efforts,” said Kelly.
Qualified expenses do not include: private clubs owned and operated by members or clubs with golf, hunting, sailing, or riding facilities.
In the case of sports equipment (other than exercise equipment), reimbursement for a single item cannot exceed $250, and these pre-tax dollars cannot be used for general fitness apparel or footwear.
“The logic is simple – engaging in physical fitness makes us all healthier, which brings down health care costs,” said Congressman Brendan Boyle.
“This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will help many families participate in fitness while saving money in the process. I’m proud to support this legislation with my colleagues that will improve health and wellbeing for my constituents and families across the country,” said Boyle.
Medical experts agree that financial barriers such as school “pay-to-play” costs, fitness center dues, outdoor recreation fees and other expenses, serve as a hinderance to physical activity.
The PHIT Act removes these barriers by allowing a portion of such funds to be used for qualified physical activity expenses – a much needed update to encouraging and improving mental and physical health.
The bill has also received several major endorsements including the National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL), National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), IHRSA, The Global Health & Fitness Association, and the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA).
“The National Football League (NFL) is pleased to support the PHIT Act, which is sensible, bipartisan legislation that makes participation in youth sports and physical activity more accessible and affordable for more Americans,” said Brendon Plack, Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs at the NFL.
IHRSA noted that while approximately 30 million Americans use HSA accounts, about half of all users forfeit a combined $400 million to $500 million each year, funds that revert to employers if not used in full within the required time constraint, every dollar consumers contribute to flex accounts is tax-free and reduces their taxable income by that amount—up to the annual limit.
Most government employees and 43 percent of private sector employees have access to HSA programs.
“The PHIT Act is a good policy in Washington, D.C., because it brings equity to the tax treatment of products and services that directly benefit the physical and mental health of consumers,” said IHRSA President and CEO Liz Clark.
“And it is good policy in every community because it does as the flex and health programs were originally intended: expands the number of people encourage and supports behavior that improves health and fitness,” said Clark.
In a released statement, SFIA officials noted the bill is supported by a broad coalition of sports, health, business, and community organizations.
The highly regarded industry association stated the long-term benefits of a more active America will not only improve the health of Americans but also contribute to the national priority of lowering overall healthcare costs.
“The pandemic gave us a new appreciation for the physical and mental health benefits of activity,” said Tom Cove, SFIA CEO and President.
Currently, over 96 million Americans have access to health benefit accounts. Yet, the accounts do not recognize exercise as a form of preventative health care.
“The PHIT Act is a common sense solution to allow more Americans to participate in sports, exercise, and recreate in the outdoors by making such activities more affordable and accessible,” said Cove.
“SFIA applauds Senators Thune and Murphy and Congressmen Kelly and Panetta for their strong commitment to improving the health of every American, and we pledge to work worth with our congressional champions to pass the PHIT Act.”
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