Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lawmakers, Meissner Promote Healthy Living

“Kimmie Meissner, Maryland's Olympic figure skater, was in Annapolis Tuesday lobbying for better fitness for Marylanders. Suzanne Collins reports on a bill that would provide tax credits to those who get in shape or stop smoking. Is some exertion and sweat worth a write-off on your taxes? One lawmaker thinks so, and he's enlisted the help of a famous Marylander, 2006 World Figure Skating Champion Kimmie Meissner. She says people just don't know how much better they would feel working out. ‘I feel I accomplished something. I know I'm keeping my body healthy, I know I'm doing a good thing, and it makes me happy to work out,’ said Meissner. In Annapolis Tuesday, Kimmie Meissner spoke in favor of a bill that would offer up to $500 per person in tax write-offs for getting healthy. ‘Smoking cessation programs, for a gym membership, not only membership but you also have to prove you go to the gym and participate, personal training would be considered something,’ said Delegate Jon Cardin, bill sponsor. The advocates include gyms, health-related non-profits and insurers. Their philosophy is that wellness is worth it. ‘Obesity, as you know, is a precursor to a number of costly and serious ailments, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer,’ said Tim Rhode with the Maryland Athletic Center. It's hard to get a bill passed that reduces state revenue in a tight economy. But the sponsor says the money saved by the state in the long run in terms of health care costs is well worth it. The Coalition for a Healthy Maryland says research proves it. A Coppin State University study shows obesity in Maryland cost $2.7 billion for health care and another billion for lost productivity. A 76-year-old at the gym says she'd love the tax write-off, which for seniors would be $750, not just $500. ‘I think any kind of exercise you do is beneficial and everybody needs it, particularly the elderly,’ said senior Judy Rise. The bill also hopes to target overweight children. Delegate Cardin admits in a tough fiscal year it will be a tough fight to get this bill passed.”

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