The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, which would allow the use of pre-tax savings accounts for physical activity-related expenses.

PHIT (Personal Health Investment Today) was included in a bipartisan package of Health Savings Account (HSA) reforms that passed in the House today by a vote of 277-142. Now, the measure moves to the Senate for further consideration.

The most likely timeframe for the Senate to consider the PHIT Act is November/December 2018.

PHIT has been a longtime priority for several industry organizations, including the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) and the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA),

The PHIT Act has been a centerpiece of Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA)’s effort to increase activity in America, following SFIA’s success in securing over $1 billion in dedicated Physical Education funding for schools via the PEP Program. SFIA’s research identified a correlation between the rising costs of activity and declining youth participation numbers, which led to the development of the PHIT Act. By allowing the use of pre-tax dollars to pay for expenses such as youth sports fees and health club dues, PHIT effectively gives consumers a 22-37 percent discount on activity costs. As research has shown, increased activity improves health and helps prevent chronic diseases. The House passage of PHIT is a tremendous step for more activity in America and confirms congressional recognition that cost is a barrier to active, healthy lifestyles.

“Today’s vote to pass the PHIT Act in the House of Representatives is a huge step forward,” said Tom Cove, SFIA president and CEO. “SFIA and the PHIT Coalition have worked tirelessly to educate members of Congress on this innovative approach to promoting sports and fitness to improve health. Though we have a lot of work to do before the bill becomes law, we are very happy with this progress and grateful to our congressional champions for their leadership.”

SFIA said PHIT will help families with various activity costs, including pay-to-play in schools, organized team sports, individual activities, camps, clinics, classes, tournaments and qualified equipment. PHIT will also help adults’ activity, as it includes gym memberships, fitness classes, personal trainers, recreational sports/activities and other eligible activity expenses. Americans know that activity is good for their health, yet there continues to be a high rate of inactivity in the U.S.; the PHIT incentive will encourage investments in activity to improve health.

In a separate statement, the IHRSA noted that twelve years ago, the IHRSA, SFIA and the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA) developed the idea to create a bill that would incentivize more Americans to be physically active.

IHRSA said PHIT provision that passed would allow Americans to use tax-free accounts like HSAs and FSAs to pay for qualified fitness expenses, including health club memberships, sports safety equipment, and youth sports fees. Under the current version of the bill, individuals could use up to $500 to cover these expenses and families could use up to $1,000.

“We knew that there would be increased opportunities to advance this legislation in the 115th Congress and we are thrilled to celebrate this significant victory,” said Helen Durkin, IHRSA’s executive vice president of public policy. “While our work on PHIT is not finished, we’d like to take today to thank every individual and organization that has supported healthy lifestyles by speaking up in favor of the benefits that PHIT would provide to our citizens and our nation. Your passion for and commitment to helping others lead active, healthy lives has brought us to this historic moment.”

IHRSA said PHIT boasts broad bipartisan support. Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) serve as the original House sponsors and their support has been echoed by many others. Currently, PHIT has 153 total sponsors—136 in the House (71 Democrats and 65 Republicans) and 17 in the Senate (6 Democrats and 11 Republicans). Though the bill has been introduced with strong support in each Congress from the 110th through the current 115th, this is the first time it has passed the entire House.

PHIT America, a  corporate-backed nonprofit that’s been pushing the legislation as well as other ways to reduce inactivity,  said in an e-mail:

“Historic Positive Vote!

“In a major step to help overcome the ‘Inactivity Pandemic’ and improve the health of Americans, The U.S. House of Representatives late this afternoon passed the PHIT Act by a bipartisan measure of 277-142. This comes less than two weeks after being passed by the House Ways and Means Committee.

“Now the PHIT Act moves to the Senate. We still have a lot of work to do on many fronts. We will keep you posted but your support has helped. Let’s keep the pressure on. We are ‘moving it down the field.’

“PHIT America thanks you for your support. The ‘Inactivty Pandemic’ continues to get worse, but passing the PHIT Act is a great step to create an active, fit and healthy America.

“Soon we will be announcing great results for our PHIT America GO! Grants for 2018. We will also start to educate Americans on the ‘Inactivity Pandemic’ and our solutions. You will be seeing the release of our 30-minute PHIT America Documercial and video. And, this fall, look out for a high visibilty 45 day fitness ‘ride’ across America.”

Photo courtesy IHRSA