IHRSA and SFIA issued statements commending the newly introduced bipartisan legislation to allow flexible spending and health savings accounts (HSA) for physical activity products, services and youth sports.

The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act is being spearheaded in the House by Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA). Senators Baldwin (D-WI), Capito (R-WV), Cramer (R-ND), King (I-ME), Marshall (R-KS), Scott (R-SC), Sinema (I-AZ), Tillis (R-NC), and Wicker (R-MS) joined in introducing PHIT. In the House, Congressmen Boyle (D-PA), Fitzpatrick (R-PA), LaHood (R-IL), and Sewell (D-AL) are original co-sponsors of this bipartisan bill.

IHRSA had previously noted that these accounts would allow eligible users to designate up to a maximum of $3,050 in 2023, pre-tax, to an employer-managed account for the purchase of non-prescriptive items, including glasses, sunblock, bandages, over-the-counter products, and various products and services to protect and improve consumer’s health. It also includes services like in-home lead paint abatement, disability adaptive programs and services, transportation for medical appointments and services, and products sold by retailers, drug stores and suppliers.

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. 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 IHRSA President & CEO Liz Clark.

“The health and fitness industry is as diverse as the communities we serve, and that is why more than 70 million consumers regularly visit clubs, studios, classes, community programs, and other group and structured exercise programs. Better fitness improves individual health, and community health will support better military recruitment and retention and help provide vital mental and physical health for all Americans. We applaud our bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate and look forward to mobilizing our nationwide grassroots coalition to push for passage,” she added.

In a separate statement, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) noted the bill is supported by a broad coalition of sports, health, business, and community organizations.

SFIA said 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, President & CEO, SFIA. “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. 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.”

SFIA’s statement included a number of comments from supporters.

“As a lifelong athlete and fitness enthusiast, I understand the value of and feel grateful to have access to gyms and fitness equipment,” said Sen. John Thune. “For some Americans, though, certain gym or athletic league membership costs can be prohibitive, keeping them from pursuing healthy habits like exercising or participating in other physical activities. By giving Americans greater flexibility with their HSAs and FSAs, we can empower people to make healthy choices, get active, and hopefully avoid the onset of costly chronic conditions.”

“Joining a local gym or signing your kids up for little league are great ways for families to get healthy and connect with their community, but those fees can be really expensive,” stated Senator Chris Murphy, “This bipartisan legislation would allow people to use their pre-tax medical accounts to cover those expenses. It is a smart investment that would help more Americans prioritize their health, lead active lives, and connect with others.”

“With families tightening their belts, gyms, youth sports leagues, and other exercise classes have become less and less affordable and accessible,” said Rep. Jimmy Panetta. “I am proud to reintroduce the PHIT Act alongside Rep. Kelly to provide financial incentives for families to really invest in physical activity for their kids and themselves. An active lifestyle is the best preventative medicine, and by encouraging these habits we can promote healthier communities.”

“As a former college football player and youth football coach myself, I have seen young Americans greatly improve their lives because they were able to join a team and play sports,” commented Rep. 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 is 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.”

“Physical activity is key to preventing numerous diseases and fostering healthier lives and communities,” added Rep. Terri Sewell. “We in Congress must do what we can to ensure that America’s families are empowered with the tools they need to live healthy and active lifestyles. That is why I am proud to be co-leading this bipartisan legislation to make it easier for Americans to afford things like gym memberships and fitness equipment and participate in youth sports.”

The bill also has drawn support from a number of national governing bodies in the sports and fitness industry, including from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, and more.

“The National Football League 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. Encouraging youth to adopt active lifestyles and healthy habits has been a cornerstone of the league’s commitment to community, and the PHIT Act helps to further advance that important goal,” said Brendon Plack, NFL SVP of Public Policy and Government Affairs. “We look forward to working with the bill’s sponsors in Congress, as well as other stakeholders in the sports community, to move the bill across the goal line. Enacting the PHIT Act into law will mark a victory in the ongoing effort to promote and support healthy and active families across the country.”

“At the NHL, we believe that hockey is for everyone, and that is why we support efforts in Congress to advance the PHIT Act, which would help make sports more affordable for all who have a passion and love for the game, regardless of socio-economic status,” said Kim Davis, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Social Impact, Growth Initiatives and Legislative Affairs. “Data consistently shows that participating in youth sports can lead to immediate and long-term physical, mental, and economic benefits for players, their families, and their communities. The PHIT Act would directly help countless American families access these invaluable sports opportunities.”

“Every child deserves the right to be healthy,” said Wayne Moss, Executive Director, National Council of Youth Sports. “Youth sports is a fun pathway to healthy lifestyles and leads to positive physical, social, and emotional outcomes. Sports also serve as a protective factor for risky behavior. The PHIT Act will reduce participation barriers and allow more young people to participate. This bipartisan legislation will help mitigate the physical and mental health challenges created by COVID-19.”

“Americans, especially our children, need to be more active, and studies have shown that children who are physically active do better academically in school,” said Jon Butler, President of Pop Warner Little Scholars. “Being active is also a good means of enhancing mood elevation and self-esteem. Passing the PHIT Act to lower activity costs will help families with youth sports expenses to increase participation in sports.”