NTRA commissioner D. G. Van Clief Jr.

NTRA commissioner D. G. Van Clief Jr.

Skip Dickstein

Insurance Panel Hopes to Expedite Recommendations

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association Jockeys' Medical Insurance Panel has identified several consensus points and hopes to have recommendations in place by Dec. 31, officials said after the panel's first meeting Nov. 22 at Turfway Park in Kentucky.

NTRA commissioner D.G. Van Clief Jr. said the panel determined that with the exception of racing states with workers' compensation insurance funds, jockeys are recognized as independent contractors. The panel also believes the $100,000 maximum for expenses for on-track injuries isn't sufficient, and that the process of achieving a solution should involve the entire industry.

Five states -- California, Idaho, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York -- have industry-supported workers' compensation funds for jockeys. In the majority of racing states, the ceiling for on-track injury expenses is $100,000.

Van Clief and NTRA executive Keith Chamblin, who chairs the panel, served as spokesman after the meeting. Van Clief said that though workers' compensation plans in five states are viewed as a success, it would take time to implement such programs on a state-by-state basis. "The assumption is more likely an expedited solution would be reached with one or more private (insurance) carriers," Van Clief said.

The Jockeys' Guild was represented at the meeting by its chief executive officer, Dr. Wayne Gertmenian, and one of its national member representatives, Darrell Haire. Gertmenian wouldn't comment immediately after the meeting, but when contacted by The Blood-Horse an hour later, he said everyone acted in good faith.

When asked if the Guild offered its own suggestions on insurance policies, Van Clief said: "They didn't offer a specific proposal, nor did we ask the Guild for a proposal. The way we left it is the Guild actually will be a member in a responsive mode, along with the rest of the committee."

Gertmenian said he wanted to clear up "misquoting" that had occurred and credited the work of those who put together workers' compensation insurance funds in the five states. He also said the Guild didn't offer any proposals on insurance during the meeting.

"That would have been presumptuous of me when people at the meeting were trying to identify the problem," Gertmenian said. "Everyone is trying to get it out on the table. It's such a people-tragedy issue, and every (catastrophic injury to a jockey) personalizes it more. I've lost my sense of humor over the last three years watching these tragedies."

The insurance panel formed a technical subcommittee to expedite development of recommendations. The members are Greg Avioli, deputy commissioner of the NTRA; John Unick and John Milward, insurance representatives; Thoroughbred owner Jack Knowlton, who has a background in health care; Tony Byergo, a labor law attorney; and Andrew Staniusz of Magna Entertainment Corp.

Van Clief said the position that jockeys are independent contractors in non-workers' compensation insurance states wouldn't necessarily mean they would have to pick up the tab for an insurance policy. "The question is whether or not the industry constituency is willing to underwrite the cost."

Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and a member of the insurance panel, called the session "productive." He said he believes the focus of the panel would be on non-workers' compensation states.