Is the NCAA Health Insurance Policy Fair For Athletes?

The following article was written by Spencer Wingate.

Before 2005, universities were not required by the NCAA to have medical insurance for injured athletes. The NCAA believes by now mandating universities to provide coverage, it is protecting itself from unexpected medical expenses and eliminating misconceptions about policies. It claims its requirements make lawsuits against universities less likely because insurance companies are paying for expenses. The NCAA’s rules compel universities to certify that athletes have insurance for athletic injuries before competing on the playing field. It does not matter if the insurance comes from the school, parent, or is even a personal policy. Therefore, schools ultimately get to determine what they will or will not pay on behalf of their athletes. Unfortunately, that has led to the level of responsibility for each school to widely vary.

In the Birmingham News, John Solomon explores the issue by pointing to the case of former Oklahoma Basketball player Kyle Hardick. His family has paid around $10,000 for medical treatment on his knee. Hardick’s father is terminally ill with cancer, but must continue to work to pay for the medical costs. Kyle’s mother Valarie states her son was misdiagnosed by the Oklahoma Medical Staff, which has allowed them to refuse to pay any costs. Since Kyle never missed any games and a personal doctor ultimately treated the injury, the school is according to NCAA rules not liable.

Kyle Hardick’s story might be a rare exception or a common occurrence. The NCAA is not required to detail the payments or care that it provides for injured athletes. California and Connecticut have recently put laws into place that require medical policies be in writing. However, at this point these are the only two states that require this documentation from their universities. Solomon also references the story of Tyrone Prothro and Derik Olvey to demonstrate certain institutions have paid for numerous surgeries even though the athletes might never play for their schools again. Naturally, a debate emerges concerning the responsibility of schools. Should schools have the right to determine their own system of payment? With financial means varying greatly depending on each school, holding everyone to the same payment requirements would be difficult. Nevertheless, the issue of liability needs to be clearly defined. It seems the NCAA needs to institute a system for medical insurance that enforces more transparency and accountability. Only then will hidden costs begin to be eliminated.

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