California Workers' Comp Plan Faces Slight Delay

California horsemen remain on the verge of finalizing a deal for lower workers' compensation insurance rates, but the program is unlikely to launch by the projected Nov. 15 starting date, the head of the state's trainer organization said Nov. 11.

Ed Halpern, executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, said the insurance provider, American International Group, has been working on providing the final legal framework for the agreement, but hasn't completed the paperwork.

"We're very close to getting it, but there's about 60 pages of legal paperwork that needs completion first," Halpern said of the plan's start-up date, which has been delayed a couple of times since it was first presented to horsemen in September.

Once approved by the provider, the legal counsel for the CTT and the Thoroughbred Owners of California would also review the agreement before the company could begin writing policies. Halpern suggested that a "loose date" for implementation is Nov. 22, but warned that it could be later.

"At least it's days or weeks away rather than months if at all," Halpern said of the beleaguered process of finding a new carrier, which began in late February. That's when the last private company in the state that provided workers' compensation insurance for backstretch workers and jockeys terminated coverage.

Since then, the state's Thoroughbred trainers have turned to the government-backed State Fund at rates far greater than had been previously experienced. Halpern said one major concern for trainers, the State Fund's penalty policy for early termination of coverage, has not been resolved.

With the help of state legislation that freed nearly $5 million in simulcast wagering purse proceeds as "gap funding" for the insurance program, American International Group agreed in principle to administer the plan.

Halpern said the latest delay doesn't mean the agreement is in trouble.

"I have had no indication that there is any reason for concern," he said.