Monday, November 11, 2013

A Round of Applause for Paralysis in Sports

Catastrophic Insurance
You know the ritual when a kid playing high school football goes down with an injury. When he eventually gets up and hobbles off the field, he gets a round of applause from the fans in the stands. Apparently, in the Richardson ISD, that might be all he ever gets, even if he can't get up at all and might never walk again.
Catastrophic care insurance offers a safety net for students who suffer life-altering accidents or illness while participating in an extra-curricular school activity, with policies providing as much as $7.5 million of coverage in cases such as spinal cord injuries, brain injury, infection or stroke. But coverage is not mandatory in Texas, nor is it officially recommended by the state's public school extracurricular governing body, the University Interscholastic League. A Dallas Morning News survey of 65 of the largest school districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area found five that don't provide any catastrophic care coverage: Birdville, Burleson, Cedar Hill, Mansfield and Richardson ISDs.
Richardson ISD?!? No coverage? Seriously?

After the jump, WTF?

Richardson ISD athletic director Bob Dubey said his district hasn't provided catastrophic care insurance for at least 21 years. Instead, the district has relied on booster clubs from its four high schools -- Richardson, Richardson Berkner, Richardson Pearce and Lake Highlands -- to consider paying for a policy that covers their high school and feeder schools. Only Pearce and Berkner's booster clubs bought policies for the 2013-14 school year.
Why did RISD drop such insurance 21 years ago? The story doesn't say.

It's not some legal liability issue tying RISD's hands. If 61 other ISDs in north Texas can provide insurance, so can Richardson ISD. Some states require school districts to provide this insurance. Texas leaves the decision up to ISDs, but certainly doesn't forbid it.

It's not the cost. Stephenville ISD has catastrophic insurance, whose cost, according to athletic director Mike Carroll, is "less than the cost of sending our cross country runners on a charter bus to the Region I meet in Lubbock."

It's not that catastrophic insurance is being provided by other means. Booster clubs at only two of RISD's four high schools have picked up the ball after it was fumbled by the ISD. When Lake Highlands plays Berkner, or Richardson plays Pearce, should the risk the players shoulder depend on which school's uniforms they are wearing?

It's not that students' families already carry personal insurance. I don't have the numbers for RISD, but in Dallas ISD, the News says that 65% of students involved in athletics don't have health insurance. Maybe that percentage will drop as Obamacare rolls out, but what about the meantime? Besides, basic health insurance doesn't cover long term care, such as what is needed for life after a paralyzing spinal cord injury suffered in, say, a cheerleading fall.

No, I can't come up with any good reason for any school district, especially one that aims for excellence in education, to allow its students to risk life and limb in dangerous extracurricular activities without insurance in case of catastrophic injury. The sporting thing to do is for the school district to provide this. Districts provide helmets and pads to protect against injury. They should provide insurance, too, in case the helmets and pads aren't enough. We challenge the kids to give their all on the playing field representing their schools. Let's give something back when a kid suffers a crippling injury doing just that.

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