Obamacare Stimulates the Regulation of Personal Trainers

Personal trainers have been doing just fine but government money is going to change the industry, punishing many businesses.

The Washington Post reports, “In the nation’s capital, a new business to regulate: D.C.’s personal trainers.”

After decades of unregulated existence in all 50 states, the booming field of personal trainers is braced for a wave of scrutiny that is expected to transform the industry and could make or break some of the biggest fitness companies in the country.

The new regulations, being written by and for the nation’s capital city, will create a registry of all personal trainers in the District only. But they are expected to become a model that winners and losers in the fight believe will be replicated elsewhere.

The credit — or blame — for the newfound urgency can be traced in part to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. A variety of workplace wellness programs and preventive health-care initiatives called for in the law could soon translate into rivers of billable hours for those with credentials to keep American waistlines in check.

And that means the race is on to be eligible for those credentials, which could eventually lead to the ability to bill insurance companies for services, much like such professionals as dieticians and physical therapists. With billions of dollars potentially at stake, lawyers and lobbyists are engaged in a no-holds-barred fight to shape the nation’s first-ever rules over who has the right to tell someone else how to exercise.

The problem for personal trainers is that no standards currently exist. Instead, dozens of competing descriptions have been written by gym owners, for-profit training companies and self-proclaimed fitness experts. There are even competing organizations that certify competing tests.

That last bit drives me crazy. The reason there are competing organizations and competing certifications is because there are still debates over the “science” of personal training. The government needs to stay out of it.

Personally, I consider “exercise” or “training” to mean lifting barbells in order to get stronger. The last thing I want is for Planet Fitness (to use a hypothetical example) to successfully lobby to create standards that support fake gyms that don’t offer barbell training and that claim we all should use machines.

Whether I am right or wrong, the government should not be getting involved in this debate. (The fact that Obamacare leads to this kind of interference is another reason to repeal Obamacare.)

The article reveals even more sickening aspects of the regulatory invasion of a perfectly functioning industry of personal trainers:

Grappling with all of that, an obscure group of D.C. regulators — the Board of Physical Therapy — is preparing to release rules that could send a shock wave through the American fitness industry. Fearing the outcome, some of the loudest voices in the field have decided to go on the offensive. They are calling the process into question and urging city lawmakers to pull back or even halt the effort with threats of drawn-out legal battles.

Some exercise specialists who work most closely with medical groups say the D.C. physical therapy board has an inherent conflict of interest and is trying to restrict professionals with whom their own industry is in direct competition. They point to draft language that could be construed as cutting out personal trainers from potentially billable future work.

And it gets worse, says CrossFit, which offers a brand of high-intensity workouts and asserts that it is the nation’s largest chain of fitness facilities. The District, according to the company, has allowed itself to become a pawn in a bitter industry fight over which personal trainer certification will have the muscle of the law behind it. That could enrich some for-profit organizations and cost others dearly. CrossFit, an industry rebel with millions of devotees as well as critics who say its program leads to injury, says it could be hurt the most.

The tab for revamping CrossFit’s training courses could run into the tens of millions of dollars if the company is forced to do so nationwide, says its chief executive.

For consumers in the District — and eventually Massachusetts and other states where registration or licensure is under debate — regulations could cause some gyms to close while owners and trainers obtain suitable certifications. Such state registries or licenses could also pervade preventive health-care programs. If an employer can get more credit for offering a certified lunchtime pilates program than for a calisthenics routine run by a rogue instructor from CrossFit, it could shape offerings that may suit the fitness needs of some consumers more than others.

So this time there is no lie being told that “If you like your personal trainer you can keep your personal trainer.”

One response came from Robb Wolf, a nutritionist who thinks human health is best served by eating meat and vegetables, and avoiding legumes, grains, and dairy (many stick to his principles except they consume low-carb, high fat dairy). He argued on his Facebook page that there is a specific agenda at work:

The testing and credentialing in no way guarantees quality coaching. It DOES create a system whereby trainers will enter the ACA [Affordable Care Act] ecosystem. Some will think that good. Those folks are wrong. What will happen is the failure to change metabolic parameters will fall not on the food industry, but on trainers. The answer will be “exercise more.”

Whether or not you agree with Wolf’s dietary plan, his observations make sense. You don’t spend billions on farming and other aspects of food and allow the message to get out that people are better off eating some foods and avoiding others. Instead you focus on something else so that nothing disturbs the market for various products.