The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is reaching out to its membership of fitness professionals at clubs and industry suppliers to work together in developing an industry agenda that will guide the associations efforts in Washington, DC, during the health care reform debate.
We are asking the people of the industry to be creative and think broadly about health care reform, says Joe Moore, IHRSA President and CEO. These are the people who every day see the impact that regular exercise has on the lives of Americans. It is important for them to have a voice in this process.
In the past year, IHRSA has been very encouraged by a growing interest among Washington policymakers in prevention and wellness. The association plans to capitalize on that interest during two major upcoming events. The first is the presidential election, and the second is the widespread belief that 2009 will bring debate and passage of sweeping health care reform legislation. While these events will likely curtail real debate and consideration of health care legislation this year, they offer a great opportunity for the health club industry to become an integral part of the solution to the growing obesity, physical inactivity and health care crises.
This agenda will be part of IHRSAs coordinated effort to remove federal barriers to exercise and focus legislators attention on the need to transform our current health care system from one that focuses on sick care to one that focuses on prevention and wellness. IHRSA actively lobbies in Washington to support two health promotion bills: The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act (H.R. 245) and The Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act (H.R. 1748 and S. 1038).
The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act (H.R. 245) would allow people to pay for exercise and physical fitness programs, certain exercise equipment, and childrens sports league fees with pre-tax dollars through their Flexible Spending Account (FSA), Medical Savings Account (MSA), or Health Savings Account (HSA). That means Americans could save 20 to 30 percent a year on their fitness-related costs because they wouldn't be paid for with taxable income.
The Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act (H.R. 1748 and S. 1038) promotes wellness in the workforce by balancing current law and allowing for off-site fitness center memberships as a tax-free benefit for employees. Current law allows employees to use on-site fitness facilities free of any tax implications, but when a business needs to outsource this health benefit, employees who receive off-site fitness center subsidies are required to pay income tax on the benefits. And their employers bear the associated administrative costs of complying with IRS rules. The WHIP Act eliminates this tax on off-site fitness center subsidies, making it easier for all employers to offer important exercise incentives for their workers.
Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and smart lifestyle choices are the most effective preventive health care practices that anyone can follow, says Moore. If we are to improve Americas health and control the costs of obesity and chronic disease, we need health care reform that supports exercise and other forms of preventive care.
According to a national public opinion poll commissioned by IHRSA, seven in ten Americans say theyd encourage their Member of Congress to pass PHIT, and three-quarters of Americans say theyd encourage WHIP. Concerned fitness professionals can exercise their rights and encourage Members of Congress to pass the PHIT and WHIP Acts by visiting www.healthclubs.com and clicking on Take Action! under Exercise Your Rights! They can also share their ideas for health care reform by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
IHRSA is a not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs and suppliers worldwide. IHRSA is committed to taking a leadership role in advancing physical activity, which is critical to America's health and the battle against obesity and disease. IHRSA supports effective national initiatives to promote more active lifestyles for all Americans and is working to pass laws that will help affect societal changes toward a fitter America. For more information, visit www.IHRSA.org. For a listing of health clubs with programs for seniors, families, and people with special health concerns, contact IHRSA at email@example.com.