It was the broken leg heard throughout the stadium. Kevin Ware brutally broke his leg while playing basketball for the University of Louisville in a big NCAA Tournament game last week. As he was rushed to the hospital there was already a debate stirring about the treatment of unpaid college students who generate millions of dollars for their schools through sports and the risk they put themselves in daily. Do they all have adequate health insurance coverage?
The good news for Ware was that the university had a secondary policy on its varsity athletes, and Ware also has his family’s primary insurance so he will be paying no out-of-pocket costs for his rehabilitation. But not all student athletes are as well-covered. It is possible Ware will be responsible for any health care expenses related to the injury after he leaves Louisville. Injuries sustained while the student is in school are not generally covered by the school’s medical insurance once an athlete has left college.
According to the New York Times article by Bill Pennington, if Ware’s medical claims exceed $90,000 he will also qualify for the NCAA’s catastrophic insurance program. The NCAA also has additional supplemental insurance for injuries that occur during certain championship events which is good news for students who are not eligible for workers comp since they are not employees. Is this adequate enough student health insurance coverage for these athletes, or could some be left with mounting bills?
There is some concern over the fact that in general schools offer their student athletes the same type of health insurance coverage as a regular student even though the athlete put themselves at much more physical risk to the benefit of the university. These universities are making a lot of money off of their athletes and a more comprehensive plan seems to make sense. But is that necessarily fair to the non-athlete students who could incur large health insurance costs?
These very concerns about unfair treatment of student athletes last year caused the California Legislature to pass a bill called the Student-Athlete Bill of Rights which requires universities that generate more than $10 million in annual media revenues from athletic events to offer the same academic scholarships to varsity athletes who are injured and lose their athletic scholarships. It’s an interesting move and time will tell if they will start giving these athletes special treatment in the way of health insurance policies.
Tags: college athletics, health insurance for students, Kevin Ware, student health insurance, university health care