October tends to be benefits open enrollment month for a lot of larger organizations. Bureaucracy intact, this is your one and only chance to modify deductions and elections for the entire year!
As is common knowledge, the federal government supports a couple of tax savings programs in the form of Health Care Savings (HSA) accounts and Childcare Savings Accounts. Employers implement the programs by allowing pre-tax income to be placed into accounts that will be used either for Health or Child care. That way, the subscribing employee doesn’t pay income, fica, orfuda tax on the account funds.
All that’s all good, but my Big problem, is that there aren’t currently any provisions for Fitness Related Expenses! I had lasik surgery to correct my vision a few years ago. That was covered under the HSA. My teenagers are currently in braces. That’s covered too. Need teeth whitened? No problem.
So, with these, apparently cosmetic items covered under Health Care Savings Account rules, why aren’t Fitness Related Expenses!? I haven’t looked, but wouldn’t be surprised if you could get a boob job with HSA account funds! What the heck!? Spending money on your heart health, reducing your risk of disease and cancer sure seems to make a lot better sense in an HSA than braces! Don’t get me wrong, I am delighted that the braces are covered (it helped soften the bill a bit), but as a ‘family-related’ allowance it doesn’t do much for childless couples, singles, or empty nesters.
Why aren’t gym memberships, bicycles, and personal training services included as well!? What could possibly make more sense when looking for ways to improve fitness levels, reduce health care costs, and put a bit more cash into ailing American pockets during an economic meltdown!?
Many employers have recognized the benefits of exercise and offer reimbursement for regular exercise attendance. At Fitness Together, we actually don’t participate in these programs. Quite frankly, the twice weekly exercise employers and health care providers recognize might be acceptable for a fit individual simply looking to maintain their fitness levels, but is grossly inadequate for anyone looking to make significant changes in their health and fitness. We simply give our clients a free session when they train 12 or more days per month. We avoid the paperwork, and our session value is a lot more valuable than the 50 bucks employers and providers offer.
BUT, if my clients, big box gym goers, and anyone spending money at the bike shop could simply draw against an HSA accepting of fitness expenses, everyone wins! Employers and providers could eliminate the overhead of their one-off attendance reimbursement programs, and their employees could exercise tax free.
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