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Insuring an Olympic Athlete

ANDREA TARRELLgold medal
Marketing Coordinator

You gotta love the Olympics.  There’s nothing like lounging on the sofa while watching extreme feats of athleticism – like the ridiculous abs on our swim team and the graceful routines of our gymnasts (I’m rooting for Gabby Douglas).  But have you ever wondered what kind of insurance goes into preserving the health of our Olympic athletes?  I’m guessing not, but I did a little research to find out.

You might expect health expenses for Team USA to be modest, since they are all in amazing physical condition.  Actually, these athletes are some of the most voracious health care consumers, since they have to visit physical therapists and specialists constantly to make sure they’re in top notch shape to compete.

Since 2005, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield has been the official health insurance supplier of Team USA.   The company supplies many (but not all) of the U.S. Olympic athletes with coverage through a plan called the Elite Athlete Health Insurance program. The company has actually launched an ad campaign promoting this:

The Elite Athlete Health Insurance plan reportedly has a whopping deductible of $25,000 for sports-related injuries.  As the name of plan suggests, this coverage isn’t for your average Joe.  Each Olympic sport is allotted a certain number of policies (approximately 1,000 total) which are handed out to the star performers first.

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield hasn’t released specifics on the EAHI plan, but it told Kaiser Health News that it’s similar to other employer plans (although the 25K deductible doesn’t seem that comparable to many employer plans I’ve heard of).  Most Olympians who are covered through the official plan reportedly have supplemental coverage as well, since they’re at such a high risk for injury.  Other alternative ways they get coverage include through their spouses, an outside employer, or in the individual market.  Since many Olympic athletes are still under 26, they are still eligible to remain on their parents’ plans as well.

USA Gymnastics also reports that its gymnasts are protected from catastrophic injures through an accident insurance plan that is paid for in full by the team.  This plan picks up the bill if a gymnast were to suffer a severe injury during training or competition, and helps to shield USA Gymnastics from potential liability if something were to happen.

Just a little food for thought while cheering on Team USA over the next two weeks! 

 

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