Guild Calls Insurance Report 'Wholly Inadequate'

The Jockeys' Guild has slammed a report issued by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Jockey Accident Insurance Working Group, claiming it serves to facilitate the agenda of racetracks and ignores exercise riders. The Guild also takes issue with a recommendation that jockeys help pay the cost of upgraded on-track accident insurance.

The working group, which met for the first time last November at a meeting attended by Guild representatives, released its conclusions April 22. Several racetracks already have taken steps to increase on-track accident insurance for jockeys from a maximum of $100,000 to a maximum of $1 million.

The Guild, in an April 26 release, called the findings "wholly inadequate and completely self-serving for its senior members, the racing associations." The Guild also claimed the working group failed in its overall mission.

"The working group, impaneled to create a safety net to protect jockeys, exercise riders, and other racing participants and, at the very least, to develop a framework for communication between its members, has failed miserably in its assigned task," the Guild statement said. "Instead, the NTRA chose to state the obvious: The level of on-track accident insurance is inadequate, and the best long-term solution is for racing jurisdictions to legislate workers' compensation or workers' compensation hybrid coverage."

Keith Chamblin, NTRA senior vice president of marketing and industry relations and chairman of the working group, couldn't be immediately reached for comment on the Guild's assessment of the report.

The Guild said the NTRA failed to acknowledge that under a former Jockeys' Guild family health insurance policy, only 400 of the about 1,900 active licensed jockeys in the United States were covered, and the policy didn't address long-term medical care and long-term disability income. The Guild also said the working group failed to acknowledge that 90% of racetrack accidents involved exercise riders.

"While I applaud the decision of those tracks that have increased the level of on-track accident insurance, I find the efforts of the NTRA working group a convincing argument of the lack of concern of the very trade association that is charged with overseeing the collective integrity, financial health, and safety of the racing industry and its participants," Guild vice president Albert Fiss said in a statement.

The working group recommended:

- Comprehensive workers' compensation coverage should be a major consideration in all jurisdictions where workers' compensation isn't available. Programs in California, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York should serve as industry models.

- Coverage through a private insurance carrier or formation of a private insurance captive should be given consideration as an alternative to state-legislated workers' compensation.

- The industry should strive to raise the level of accidental insurance coverage for jockeys to levels commensurate with coverage provided by the Jockeys' Guild before it discontinued catastrophic accident coverage on behalf of its members.

- Though industry participants in various jurisdictions must resolve coverage and funding, all segments of the industry, including jockeys, should contribute to the funding of any additional insurance coverage.

A working group subcommittee was instrumental in lining up insurance carrier AIG to provide $1-million coverage at some racetracks, including those owned by Churchill Downs Inc. States such as Kentucky, meanwhile, plan to pursue workers' compensation legislation next year.

The Guild and insurance are the targets of a United States Congressional subcommittee, which has requested documents related to Guild management and health insurance policies. The action is part of an ongoing subcommittee investigation into the adequacy of insurance for jockeys and exercise riders.