Bike Portland posted today about a bill introduced in the House of Representatives that would allow individuals to set aside money in a pre-tax flexible spending account to use toward the purchase of fitness equipment, much in the way pre-tax dollars can now be set aside for medical expenses. From the bill:
To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to treat certain amounts paid for physical activity, fitness, and exercise as amounts paid for medical care.
The intent of the bill is to encourage physical activity as a way to combat diseases associated with inactivity and obesity. Again, from the bill:
(a) Findings- Congress finds that–
- (1) almost 20 percent of American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are overweight or suffer from obesity;
- (2) 8 of the 9 most expensive illnesses in the United States are more common among overweight and obese individuals;
- (3) according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the increase in the number of overweight and obese Americans between 1987 and 2001 resulted in a 27 percent increase in per capita health care costs;
- (4) the World Health Organization determined that in the United States a $1 investment in physical activity alone (in time and equipment) would reduce medical expenses by $3.20;
- (5) research indicates that 2 in 5 Americans would become more physically active if offered a financial incentive;
- (6) the United States ranks last in the world in reducing the number of preventable deaths resulting from obesity-related chronic illnesses; and
- (7) engaging in physical activities at young ages when children are learning lifelong behaviors can have a significant impact on their long-term health.
(b) Purpose- The purpose of this Act is to promote health and prevent disease, particularly diseases related to being overweight and obese, by–
- (1) encouraging healthier lifestyles;
- (2) providing financial incentives to ease the financial burden of engaging in healthy behavior; and
- (3) increasing the ability of individuals and families to participate in physical fitness activities.
According to the Bike Portland article, $250 of the purchase of a new bicycle would qualify for the deduction.