Legislation requires catastrophic insurance coverage for student-athletes

2013-05-23T13:15:00Z 2013-05-23T23:59:07Z Legislation requires catastrophic insurance coverage for student-athletesJeanette Lach (219) 933-3267 jeanette.lach@nwi.com nwitimes.com

Legislation requiring high schools to offer catastrophic insurance coverage for their student-athletes is headed to Gov. Pat Quinn's desk.

The bill, sponsored in the House by state Rep. Will Davis, D-East Hazel Crest, and in the Senate by state Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Flossmoor, was inspired by Rasul "Rocky" Clark, a former football player for Eisenhower High School in Blue Island who was left a quadriplegic after suffering two broken vertebrae in his neck during a game on Sept. 15, 2000. The school had catastrophic insurance; however, the insurance ran out in 2010 and Clark died soon after, according to his website.

"This measure helps to ensure that our children are protected while participating in team activities," Davis said in a prepared statement." We don't want to discourage students from participating in school sports because of their family's economic status. By offering catastrophic insurance we can help those that suffer horrible accidents while encouraging participation in high school athletics."

Under the legislation, the catastrophic insurance would begin when a student's medical expenses exceed $50,000. The total benefit limits are $3 million or five years, whichever occurs first. The legislation as passed would not have helped Clark, whose own catastrophic insurance ran out after 10 years.

The insurance would be required of a public or nonpublic school for students who participate in school-sponsored or school supervised interscholastic athletic events sanctioned by the Illinois High School Association. The IHSA would be required to provide a group policy but schools whose students have their own accident and health insurance policy would be exempt.

The IHSA already provides students with this catastrophic insurance for state tournaments. To extend this coverage for the entire season, officials estimate costs for schools to be less than $5 per athlete, according to Harris' web site.

"Your level of health care shouldn't be decided by your team's win-loss record," said Harris, a former NFL football player and star athlete at Thornton Township High School in Harvey.

The legislation does not provide a funding mechanism for the insurance, but schools may add it on to student fees, for example.

"These injuries are rare, but when they do happen it's devastating for the student and their families," Harris said. "These students have sacrificed everything for their schools and they deserve access to health care."

If signed by Quinn, the legislation would be effective July 1.

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