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PHIT Bill Being Re-Introduced on Capital Hill

SportsOneSource Media Posted: 7/26/2011

SGMA reported that legislation to encourage increased physical activity in America will be re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives later today.  Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) will introduce the Personal Health Investment Today Act of 2011 (PHIT) in the 112th Congress.  The PHIT Bill will be 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 in sponsoring 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, SGMA said. 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 promoting this SGMA initiative in recent years and we are delighted to see Representative Brady leading the effort on this legislation,” said Bill Sells, SGMA’s 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 will be announcing its legislative agenda for this Congress and the PHIT Act will be included.  SGMA will participate in the Youth Sports Caucus event to promote active, healthy lifestyles for our nation’s young people.

“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. SGMA said.  Health care reform remains 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 this past spring during SGMA’s National Health Through Fitness Day on March 2nd, SGMA noted.  On National Health Through Fitness 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 continued 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 nearly $700 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.”

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