The top congressional tax committee, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways & Means, approved the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act by a vote of 28-6. The PHIT Act was passed through the committee, and will be part of a larger package of health savings account (HSA) reform measures that the full House will vote on later this month.

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association, PHIT America and other leaders in the sports, health and fitness industries have been pushing for the PHIT Act to be approved by Congress for more than a decade.

“We are very encouraged by the progress the PHIT Act made today in Congress; this is the closest PHIT has come to becoming law since its inception,” said SFIA President and CEO Tom Cove. “While the positive vote today has left us very hopeful that it will pass this year, we still have work to do. SFIA remains committed to leading the effort to increase activity in America.”

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) said it recognized the impact of cost on the decline of physical activity early on, and drafted the PHIT bill in 2006. In 2007, former Ways & Means Committee member Jerry Weller (D-IL) introduced PHIT, and the support has been building ever since. The Ways & Means Committee giving PHIT the nod on a bipartisan basis is a huge step in the process.

“This is tremendous news ,and it’s encouraging that our voices are being heard in Washington, D.C. by our national legislators,” said PHIT America Founder Jim Baugh in a separate statement. “Passage of the PHIT Act will make physical activity more affordable for all Americans, especially families.

According to SFIA’s Vice President of Government Relations Bill Sells, who was present in the hearing when the votes were cast, the PHIT Act passed with significant bipartisan support.

The PHIT Act will have a direct impact on improving health in the U.S. by making physical activity expenses reimbursable through pre-tax dollars in Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). Expenses eligible for reimbursement under the PHIT Act include fitness & exercise classes, sport/activity camps and clinics, youth & adult sports’ registration fees, sports and fitness equipment solely used to participate in a physical activity, instructional lessons and clinics, running & fitness event registration fees, yoga and other physical activity expenses.

SFIA said the organization will continue to work with partners and Congress to further refine the bill to ensure that it maximizes the incentive for individuals to be physically active. The organization said cost has become a barrier to activity for too many families, and the PHIT Act will lower this barrier to help move more kids from inactive to active. A culture change in America to more active lifestyles is crucial to improving the health of our country and our economy, and it starts with getting children off the couch, the organization added.

Photo courtesy NFHS