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DII Presidents Council to consider emergency legislation to deregulate medical expenses

By David Pickle

The Division II Presidents Council will consider emergency legislation at its January meeting that would deregulate Division II Bylaw 16.4 (medical expenses).

The emergency legislation, recommended by the Division II Legislation Committee, would permit an institution, conference or the NCAA to provide medical and related expenses and services to student-athletes. The committee believes the deregulation would provide member institutions and conferences with the flexibility to deal with the implementation of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in January 2014.

If the Presidents Council approves the emergency legislation, Division II programs would be able – but not obligated – to provide health insurance for their student-athletes under any conditions.

As currently written, Bylaw 16.4.2 lists four types of nonpermissible medical expenses, including Bylaw 16.4.2-(a), which prohibits the institution from financing student health insurance for student-athletes “if the insurance is provided or offered to the general student body only on an optional basis, except that if such insurance is required for a particular group of students (e.g., international students), such expenses may be paid for student-athletes who are members of such a group. Only such required fees may be paid as part of an institutional grant-in-aid for student-athletes.”

Legislation Committee member Dan Kenney, former athletics director at UNC Pembroke, said that many institutions that are currently providing health insurance to all students may choose to discontinue that benefit since the ACA will require all Americans to have health insurance and because parents will have the option (but not the requirement) of keeping their children on their policies until age 26.

“If that were to happen, that would leave some student-athletes in a lurch,” Kenney said.
Kenney said the Legislation Committee discussed at length the pros and cons of deregulating Bylaw 16.4. The principal concern was whether permitting institutions to purchase health insurance for student-athletes in need could unfairly advantage institutions with more resources. Several members of the committee were sympathetic to the concern, but Kenney said the group ultimately concluded that the broader implications of the situation trumped apprehensions about competitive equity.

“The insurance issue in 2014 is going to be completely different than when this legislation was first enacted,” Kenney said.

Had the committee chosen to sponsor the proposal on a normal timeline with a traditional effective date, rather than as emergency legislation, the matter would have been considered in January 2014 and implemented Aug. 1, 2014 – seven months after the ACA will have taken effect. Even an immediate effective date (Jan. 18, 2014) would be after the implementation of the ACA.

“There could be a whole semester where student-athletes are impacted in a negative way, and we would be doing nothing but filing waiver after waiver,” said Kenney, who recently was named chief of staff for UNC Pembroke Chancellor Kyle R. Carter.

If the Presidents Council approves the emergency legislation, athletics administrators would be able to spend much of 2013 consulting with legal counsel and risk managers to determine the best course of action for their program and their student-athletes.