Olympic athletes are among the millions of Americans who have trouble finding affordable and comprehensive health care. In fact, the Elite Athletes Health Insurance Plan, administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield, covers only basic preventative care and charges higher premiums for out-of-network care.
But even though Olympians are some of the healthiest people on earth, their specific health needs are not covered by EAHI’s health insurance. The plan does not cover the expensive sports injuries top athletes incur regularly. The plan also does not cover the frequent check-ins athletes require to stay healthy, nor the early and meticulous treating of illnesses and injuries, which can keep athletes on the sidelines.
The insufficient USOC health insurance also isn’t guaranteed to all Olympic-level athletes, who must navigate a byzantine system to determine whether they are eligible for insurance. The Kaiser Health Foundation explains:
The 1,000 or so policies offered by the USOC are divided among the national groups that govern individual sports – for summer, winter and Paralympic Games – and each group sets its own requirements for eligibility. USA Swimming, for example, is allocated 56 policies. Olympic team members are given the first crack at the coverage, followed by the top-ranked swimmers in each event who did not make the team.
Even athletes who qualify for insurance often have to seek additional insurance coverage. Almost all top athletes purchase back-up health insurance to cover the catastrophic injuries they are particularly prone to, or they use insurance through a spouse or parent’s plan. Gymnasts in particular, who are usually the youngest Olympians, are likely to be included under a parent’s health coverage, and thanks to Obamacare, more Olympians who are under 26 could stay under their parents’ insurance to supplement coverage.