Guild Not at Fault in California Rider Claims

The embattled Jockeys' Guild was not at fault in the handling of California rider medical insurance claims that were reportedly unpaid or sent to a collection agency, the executive director of the state's horse racing board said in a statement released May 24.

In a review spearheaded by commissioner Richard Shapiro, the board forwarded documentation on 12 cases to the Jockeys' Guild last month  -- claims that California riders contended the national organization's health insurance plan had improperly failed to cover.

Ingrid Fermin, executive director for the CHRB said, that of the nine cases the Guild responded to, "those claims were properly and timely handled by the Jockeys' Guild.

"It does not appear that the Jockeys' Guild failed in its responsibility to address any of these claims," she continued. "There are specific procedures to be followed by individuals making claims and by their medical service providers, and if they do not follow those procedures, any resulting delays are not the fault of the Jockeys' Guild."

Three other cases were not addressed in the Guild's response because the claimants had failed to return medical release forms allowing the jockeys' organization to divulge information about them.

Barry Broad, an attorney for the Jockeys' Guild, said he was prepared to answer those claims as well if the release forms are provided.

Jockey Ron Warren, representing the recently formed California Jockeys Guild, brought the claims to the CHRB's attention at a commission meeting at Bay Meadows in late March. Warren, whose group would like to establish its own health insurance program and take over about $1 million provided annually by the state for rider medical benefits, could not be reached for comment.

Broad said a third-party administrator investigated the jockey claims.

"We felt like when given the opportunity to investigate and respond with information to the board, we were vindicated," Broad said.

He said that the claimants may have been confused about medical insurance procedures and that the Guild needs to do a better job of educating its members about the different types of claims and how they are covered. For example, he said, on-track rider injuries are to be covered through workers' compensation insurance, not the Guild's medical plan.

"Sometimes that's how it goes," Broad said.

He said that with its recent problems with its membership in  California and elsewhere around the country, there was a "presumption of guilt" toward the Jockeys' Guild by Shapiro and others in the racing industry.

"We're just going to have to turn this around," he said.

Shapiro, although well intentioned, was too quick to judge the Guild with negative comments, Broad said. "He's a new board member and he's learning. Caution is the byword. Words can be very damaging."

Shapiro could not be reached for comment.

A forensic audit of the Jockeys' Guild handling of the $1 million California fund, which is provided by state legislation through uncashed pari-mutuel tickets, has been authorized by the CHRB to ensure that the money has been properly spent on rider health insurance claims.