Report by Paula Antolini, March 17, 2023, 6:34PM EDT
WASHINGTON—March 16, 2023—U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and John Thune (R-S.D.) and U.S. Representatives Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) reintroduced the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act. This bipartisan, bicameral 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.
“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,” said Murphy. “This bipartisan legislation would allow people to use their flexible spending accounts to cover those expenses. It’s a smart investment that would help more Americans prioritize their health, lead active lives, and connect with others.”
“As a lifelong athlete and fitness enthusiast, I understand the value of having access to gyms and fitness equipment, and I’m grateful for those opportunities,” said 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 prevent the onset of costly chronic conditions.”
“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 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.”
“With families tightening their belts, gyms, youth sports leagues, and other exercise classes have become less and less affordable and accessible,” said Panetta. “I’m proud to reintroduce the PHIT Act alongside Rep. Kelly and Sens. Thune and Murphy 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.”
The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and U.S. Reps. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), and Terri Sewell (D-Ala.).
“The pandemic gave us a new appreciation for the physical and mental health benefits of activity,” said Tom Cove, president and CEO of the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (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.”
“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. “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. 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 National Hockey League (NHL), we believe that hockey is for everyone, and that’s 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, senior executive and vice president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs at the NHL. “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 B. Moss, executive director of the 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 serves 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,” said Jon Butler, executive director of Pop Warner Little Scholars. “Studies have shown that children who are physically active do better academically in school. 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 and increase participation in sports for improved health.”
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.