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The Government Might Pay for Your Treadmill

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In early March 2017, a bill was introduced by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives that would define medical expense to allow preventive treatments and equipment to be payable through health savings accounts.

Presumably, the Personal Health Investment Today Act would include treadmills and other exercise equipment as eligible expense. Contributions to health savings accounts are tax deductible, so, in effect, the taxpayers would be paying for that portion of your purchase price represented by your tax rate, up to $2,000 for joint filers and $1,000 for single filers. The intent is to encourage people to improve their own health, thus reducing government and overall spending on health care.

What’s uncertain is whether such a cost savings would actually have the intended effect. First, it would need to cause someone to exercise regularly who otherwise wouldn’t. Then that effect would have to cause that person and many others to be healthier and avoid expensive interventions. Also, people can contribute to health saving accounts only when they also have “catastrophic” health insurance policies. The whole idea behind these accounts is for people to spend the balance on amounts that don’t exceed the high deductibles of their insurance policies. In other words, carefully. If a person is of a mind to put aside cash to save for catastrophe, how likely is he to use that cash for a treadmill? Not very.

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