Obamacare Punishes You for Joining A Gym

It is not just city governments that want to punish those who try to get or stay healthy through exercise. As I wrote about efforts of cities to put a special tax on bicyclists:

…the whole point of “sin” taxes is that taxing an activity reduces that activity. Supposedly that reason government taxes alcohol or cigarettes is to deter people from drinking or smoking as much. But is that the real reason? Or do they just want revenue?

And why wouldn’t the logic of sin taxes apply to healthy activities?

Of course the logic would apply. It does apply. And the Affordable Care Act is doing the same thing. In this case, Obamacare is slightly less directly malevolent because it isn’t intended as a tax on exercise per se. It is a tax on tanning. However, there are gyms  and gym franchises that include access to tanning facilities.

Thus, myfoxny.com reports:

Some people who are members of the health club Planet Fitness are finding their membership costs have gone up because of the Affordable Health Care Act.

A sign posted at a Falls Church, Va. location says “Holders of Black Card memberships will be required to pay a tax on these memberships Starting January 1, 2014 as required by the implementation of provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act.  This is not a change in your membership fee but rather a tax required by the government.”

The reason these accounts are forced to charge the new tax is because they include the option for members to tan at the clubs.  Obamacare has a tax on tanning salons.  It doesn’t matter if the member uses or does not use the tanning facilities.

The tax, called an excise tax, is 10 percent.  A Black Card membership is about $20 a month so the gym user would have to fork over an extra $24 a year in taxes.

This story is somewhat personal to me since I joined a gym in December. Since there are no tanning beds at the gym I am not subject to a penalty (a tax) yet. But the company is building a larger facility closer to my home. It will include tanning. I’ll have to make sure that my membership excludes the tanning or watch my expense go up.

Perhaps the tax seems low to you. But many people join such gyms only because the price seems so low. They don’t do crossfit or hire a trainer because they can’t afford that kind of money. To have to pay for basically an extra month a year plus some change will be a real pain.  A few will decide to quit the gym.

Taxes have real consequences.