New results from a fitness incentive program study could help health clubs lobby for tax breaks in Washington.
The International Health, Racquet & Sports Club Association, Boston, recently brought members to Capitol Hill to drum up interest in H.R. 245, a bill that would let taxpayers use flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts to pay for exercise equipment and fitness programs, and H.R. 1748, a bill that would let workers exclude up to $900 per year in fitness center fees from taxable income.
The House Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over both bills.
Meanwhile, Medica Insurance Company, Minnetonka, Minn., a nonprofit health insurer, has teamed with Life Time Fitness Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn., to conduct a study that suggests taking concrete steps to encourage health plan members to exercise may lead to measurable reductions in the members’ health claims.
The researchers found that monthly claims costs for plan members who made active efforts to qualify for the incentive payments were 33% lower after 2 years than monthly costs for comparable plan members who received no fitness incentives, Medica researchers report.
The Medica study results are confirming what many Americans already believe.
When IHRSA commissioned a telephone survey of 1,016 U.S. adults ages 18 and over, it found that 99% of the participants said they think exercise helps preserve good health, IHRSA officials say.
But Americans “are losing the struggle to balance the demands of work and family with personal health,” says IHRSA President Joe Moore.
About 79% of the IHRSA survey participants said work, family and finances interfere with people’s efforts to exercise, and 61% said the government should do more to promote physical activity.
The Medica study results imply that fitness programs could help hold down skyrocketing medical costs if they persuade a large percentage of Americans to exercise at least twice a week.
In 2003, Medica began offering incentive payments of $20 per month to members of fully insured plans who exercised at Life Time health clubs at least 8 times a month.