The National Business Group on Health wants Congress to offer tax breaks for efforts to fight obesity.

If the United States could simply reduce obesity to 1987 levels, that by itself might be enough to reduce U.S. health care spending about $200 billion per year, according to the authors of a study commissioned by the NBGH, Washington.

Today, the tax code offers favorable treatment for treating the medical consequences of obesity, such as heart disease, but it does not do much to support weight management programs and other wellness programs, the NBGH says.

The NBGH is recommending the following changes:

- Employer contributions toward employee expenses for health and wellness activities, programs and purchases should be excludable from employees’ incomes for tax purposes.

- Employees should be able to use pre-tax dollars — including amounts in Section 125 cafeteria plans, health savings accounts and flexibility spending accounts — to pay for their share of health and wellness programs and products.

- Individuals should be allowed to deduct post-tax, out-of-pocket expenses for health and wellness activities, programs, and purchases from their taxes in the same way that they can for medical expenses if their total health care and wellness expenses exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income.