National Insurance Program to Get Serious Look

Industry representatives will gather Dec. 10 in Tucson, Ariz., to discuss a plan for a broad national health insurance program.

The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the American Quarter Horse Association will host the summit meeting. Issues such as workers' compensation insurance and jockey insurance helped heighten the call for the session.

"This issue is so important," said Remi Bellocq, executive director of the National HBPA. "We need to look at things like multi-jurisdictional approval for workers' compensation. It's a problem that is not going away."

Organizers hope to put together an "action plan" that could include workers' comp insurance, horsemen's group health and accident insurance, jockey insurance, track liability insurance, and other types of coverage.

"We need to address insurance and horse racing from a national perspective like we are with medication," Dan Fick, the AQHA's director of racing, said in a statement. "This industry needs to provide adequate coverage for all of the backstretch workers and participants on horseback."

Robert Colton, a member of the board of directors of the Jockeys' Guild, said the health coverage issue is of primary importance to the organization. He said seven to eight companies have been contacted about providing insurance, and not one bid was received.

"We can no longer afford to go without insurance," said Colton, who rides in the Mid-Atlantic region. "It's an issue at the forefront. It's no longer acceptable with the type of medical bills we face. There's enough money in the industry (to facilitate a resolution)."

Lonny Powell, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, will moderate the insurance summit. Panelists include Dr. Price Fishback, a professor of economics at the University of Arizona; Bob Flynn, executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association; David Hoskins, senior vice president of Andreini & Co., which specializes in property and casualty insurance; Ed Halpern, executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers; John Roark, president of the National HBPA; and Chris Scherf, executive vice president of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations.

Representatives of the American Horse Council and Jockeys' Guild also will participate in the panel discussion. Linda Mills, president of the Florida HBPA, and Randall Hampton, vice president of McGriff, Seibels & Williams, will discuss a "cost per stall" plan that has been proposed in Florida.

The open forum will begin at 8 a.m., and a strategic planning session for participants is set for 1 p.m. The summit will be held at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, where the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing is scheduled for Dec. 11-13.