Maybe you’ve got abs of steel, or maybe you’re a weekend warrior. On the other hand, perhaps your idea of a workout is having to get off the couch to find the remote. Regardless, there’s a new bill working its way through the House of Representatives that will make it easier for all of us to break a sweat.
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) have grown in popularity every year since their introduction to the marketplace over ten years ago. People like them because of their triple tax threat – saving pre-tax dollars for medical expenses, tax-free growth of said dollars, and tax-free distributions of that money.
But the federal government giveth, and the federal government taketh away. There’s a list of qualified expenses you can use your HSA dollars for, and up until now, that list did not include expenses related to activities that just might keep you from ever getting sick in the first place, at least for a good part of your life. Representative Matt Salmon (R-AZ) recently introduced H.R. 3404, which specifically proposes that the tax code be changed to allow HSA funds to be used to pay for “fitness facility membership and classes.”
If you’re like me, you believe that you should be able to vote with your wallet and make your own decisions about how to spend your healthcare dollars. I’d so much rather spend my hard-earned money on a gym membership than on high blood pressure medication or copayments for doctor’s visits for diabetes monitoring. Ideas like this appeal to one of my basic beliefs about controlling healthcare costs, which is if you let the consumer decide how funds are spent, those consumer will make decisions that ultimately benefit their health the most.
I’m interested in what you think, so tell me: Would you be more likely to join a gym if you could use HSA dollars to pay your membership costs? Would you be more likely to enroll in a high-deductible HSA-qualified health plan if you could pay your gym membership from your HSA account?
Wiley Long is President of HSA for America, and a passionate advocate for consumer-based solutions that will improve price transparency and lower health insurance and medical costs for people purchasing individual and family health insurance plans.