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Government shutdown affects PHIT Act Photo by Narvikk / Getty Images.
Since 2011, congressional support of The PHIT Act has expanded from 25 co-sponsors to more than 150 co-sponsors.

Government Shutdown Prevents PHIT Act Vote

Ten years after the first PHIT Act was introduced in the U.S. Congress, the latest bill, which went further than previous efforts when it passed the U.S. House in July 2018, was stymied from being passed by the U.S. Senate by the government shutdown on Dec. 22, 2018. The legislation now awaits re-introduction in both the House and Senate in 2019.

The ongoing shutdown of the federal government prevented a final U.S. Senate vote on The PHIT Act before the end of the 2018, effectively killing the legislation for now.

In July 2018, The PHIT Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the Restoring Access to Medication Act of 2018 (H.R. 6199), marking the first time the decade-old legislation passed the entire House.

In the Senate, the legislation was eligible for voting for several weeks before the Dec. 22 government shutdown went into effect.

“We got caught in the shutdown politics,” SFIA President and CEO Tom Cove said in a Dec. 31, 2018, media release. “We had the PHIT Act perfectly positioned to be included in the end-of-year tax package, with many legislators having a strong, vested interest in passing this bill, but it simply never came up for a vote. I can say, with 100 percent assurance, had the PHIT Act been voted on, it would have been passed and signed by the president.”

The version of The PHIT Act included in H.R. 6199, if passed, would allow Americans to utilize tax-free health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts to pay for select fitness expenses, such as health club memberships, youth sports fees and sports safety equipment. This would cover $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families.

Cove said he anticipates The PHIT Act will be re-introduced in both the House and Senate in the first quarter of 2019. Since 2011, support of the PHIT Act has expanded from 25 co-sponsors to more than 150 co-sponsors, according to the release.

As of this writing, it is unclear when the 115th Congress will resume its second session. The ongoing government shutdown, in its 12th day, stems from a dispute over the appropriation of various funds, including those for a possible Mexico-United States barrier.

“The unpredictability essentially doomed the PHIT Act in the end,” Cove said. “We’ve been working to pass PHIT for 10 years. We were right on the goal line of passage and had an incredible amount of bipartisan support for this concept and legislation. Unfortunately, the shutdown politics sucked all of the air out of the room and nothing got done. It’s a shame. However, we’ll be back in 2019, fully prepared to rally the industry and further grow the support of the PHIT Act into passage.”

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