Every high school and junior high school student-athlete in Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association member schools will be covered by concussion insurance beginning Aug. 1, 2017.
The WIAA noted that “for years” it “has been at the forefront of addressing the concussion issue. Now (it) is taking another step regarding one of the biggest concerns in athletics today.”
The WIAA purchased a policy for all of its student-athletes, approximately 80,000 annually, providing them with zero out-of-pocket costs should they suffer a concussion. Wisconsin is the fourth state to provide this coverage for all student-athletes.
“We don’t want a single student-athlete to not be evaluated or treated for a concussion because of the cost,” former Board of Control president Mike Beighley said. “This coverage provides one more level of support for member schools and student-athletes in making school sports as safe an experience as they can be.”
The association characterized its initiative as “another proactive step” by the WIAA Board of Control that “assures all WIAA high school and junior high student-athletes, who are diagnosed with a sport-related concussion, will be afforded treatment with no out-of-pocket costs.”
“The WIAA has a long history of focusing on serving the membership and student-athlete well-being,” current Board president Pam Foegen said. “We believe that offering this insurance represents a win-win, both for our members and the students they serve.”
The insurance is the HeadStrong Concussion Insurance Program developed by Dissinger Reed Insurance. The policy costs $1.50 per athlete. It covers every student-athlete in grades 6-12 while participating in any practice or game sanctioned by the WIAA.
“Our partnership with the WIAA supports the Dissinger Reed mission of providing concussion insurance to as many young athletes as possible,” said Dissinger Reed CEO Christian Reed, who works with 25 state high school associations. “We are thrilled the state of Wisconsin shares this goal and look forward to a successful partnership.”
For any claim, the participant’s insurance would first be billed and then the HeadStrong Insurance would act as secondary insurance and assist with unpaid deductibles or co-pays. The maximum benefit is $25,000 per injury, and there is no deductible per claim.
The membership of the WIAA oversees interscholastic athletic programs for 511 senior high schools and 38 junior high/middle level schools in its membership. It sponsors 27 championship tournament series for boys and girls in 2016-17.
Reed Sees Insurance as Litigation Deterrent
Reed told CLR that such programs are “a proactive and necessary approach by our state high school associations moving forward. Their mission is to always protect the student-athletes participating on behalf of their state and the HeadStrong concussion insurance program provides another layer of coverage for each participant.”
He further added that the program is a “litigation deterrent.”
“With the specific class action lawsuits we have seen in several states, we hope this can also be viewed as a possible litigation deterrent in providing another component of concussion coverage and management.”
Looking at the Pros and Cons
Another industry executive, John Sadler of Sadler Sports Insurance, suggested a thorough evaluation of the pluses and minuses.
“The pros are the positive publicity (it shows how much you care to parents and public) and that it is a valuable benefit, if no other insurance is in force to cover treatment such as family Health Insurance or school district Base Plan Accident insurance,” Sadler said.
“The cons are a question about why are concussions treated differently than other serious injuries? Second, there is a likely duplication of benefits with existing insurance, and thus it’s an unnecessary expense.”
Sadler suggested that concussion diagnosis, treatment, and follow up protocols are already covered by:
Family Health Insurance (may be subject to deductibles and coinsurance but uncovered bills would likely be covered by Base Plan Accident Insurance)
School district Base Plan Accident insurance (Limit: up to $25,000) (Deductible: $0 to $500)
School district Catastrophe Accident Insurance (Limit: $25,000 to $1-$5 million)
“This product is viable only if a significant percentage of school districts don’t carry Base Plan Accident Insurance, or the Base Plan Accident Insurance has a deductible that is so high that it would discourage medical treatment for concussions. This would depend on the school district, but most do carry Base Plan Accident Insurance and most deductibles are relatively low ($0 to $250).”