PREP SPORTS

Rocky Clark law comes at a cost

2013-08-05T19:00:00Z 2013-08-23T02:14:39Z Rocky Clark law comes at a costMike Nieto mike.nieto@nwi.com, (219) 933-3232 nwitimes.com
August 05, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

The law which states that next year schools must offer catastrophic insurance coverage for student-athletes is unclear as to the cost to school districts.

Starting Jan. 1, 2014, Illinois high schools must offer catastrophic insurance coverage for student athletes, under a bill Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law on Sunday. It is called "Rocky's Law" after the Eisenhower football player who was paralyzed from the neck down when he was tackled in 2000 during a game.

His care was provided through a $5 million insurance policy held by the school district. When that policy hit its limit, he relied on Medicaid, his mother and donations. He died last year.

Local athletic directors contacted Monday were unsure of the cost to their school district. Since they do not know enough about it, they did not wish to comment on the cost.

T.F. North principal Dwayne Evans said he is all for the bill, but he is unsure of what the cost to schools will be.

"You are always concerned about costs with cutbacks and everything," Evans said. "We are not sure right now what our (District 215) will be. We know it will cost $5 per student, but we are not sure what it will cost schools. There are different types of catastrophic injuries too."

Most schools make athletes show proof of insurance or buy it through the school before they begin practice.

T.F. North football coach Artie Rogers said while he just heard of the bill's page on Monday and did not know much about the cost.

"Anything for the student-athlete, but you also hope things like that do not happen to a student-athlete," Rogers said. "As for the cost, I couldn't tell you because I do not have the figures."

Former Thornton, Northwestern and NFL player Sen. Napoleon Harris (D-Flossmoor) was one who sponsored the bill. Harris starred at Thornton and Northwestern, and played for the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings.

"That was a big financial burden for his mom," Harris said. "It is devastating for the athlete and his or her family and not just from a financial standpoint. They deserve access to proper health coverage."

Harris said he was lucky that he did not have such an injury in his career.

"We are all one hit away from that happening and that is why I pushed for this," Harris said. "That could have been me."

The law says that a school's minimum policy will cover $3 million in aggregate benefits or five years of coverage — whatever comes first — for injuries that total medical expenses over $50,000. The law includes public and private schools and state officials estimate that the cost of the coverage will be no more than $5 a student.

Currently, some schools carry insurance for athletes, but it hasn't been mandatory. The Illinois High School Association provides students with this catastrophic insurance for state tournaments.

The new law also allows public elementary and middle school districts provide accident and health insurance coverage for students injured while participating in school-sponsored athletic activities during Kindergarten through 8th grade.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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