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Earlier this month, Chris Clawson, the president of Life Fitness, shared an open letter to the health and fitness industry that encouraged the passage of the Personal Health Investment Today, or PHIT Act that addressed growing concerns over the Inactivity Pandemic.
This year, Clawson became chairman for the Sports Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), which mission is “To Promote Sports and Fitness Participation and Industry Vitality.” The organization has a history of advocacy – more than 15 years ago, encouraging the passing of the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP), which provides the only federal funding for physical education for schools K – 12.
Now, SFIA’s attention has turned to PHIT. If passed, the act will expand the Internal Revenue Service’s definition of qualified medical expenses to include physical activity as a form of prevention. The PHIT Act would allow consumers to use money in pre-tax medical accounts (HSAs, FSAs, etc.) to pay for fitness equipment, health and fitness club memberships, personal training, sports equipment and more.
“I was sitting here thinking about how little our industry actually knew about what was happening with PHIT,” said Clawson. “I believe that it’s the most important thing that’s ever happened in the history of sporting goods and fitness, and no one is talking about it.”
According to Clawson, if passed, the PHIT Act would be a game changer for health and fitness in America. “The analogy I’ve used for several years is, you go to the dentist twice a year, and your insurance company pays for that for one reason and one reason only, which is prevention. But yet you can’t do anything to prevent catastrophic events happening to the rest of your body. Everything else is treatment. What we’re truly advocating for here is to use your pre-tax income just like you do for dental, to get active and to support active lifestyles.”
Through the previously passed PEP, $70 million is spent per year by the federal government on K – 12 activity. Although that may seem like a high price tag, that number is far less than the trillions of dollars spent each year on health care costs. With this in mind, Clawson encouraged health club operators to do their part in helping the PHIT Act be signed into law.
“One of the ways to be part of the process is to reach out to their congressmen,” said Clawson. “PHIT America has a link and so does SFIA, that goes directly to your congressperson. You put in your zip code and it goes directly to them, on behalf of passing the PHIT Act.”
Clawson also encouraged health clubs to educate their members on PHIT, so that they can get involved as well.
“Rather than trying to just keep talking to the people that were listening, I wanted to share the information with those who hadn’t had a chance to hear it yet,” added Clawson.