SBJ/May 27-June 2, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL looking for single carrier to provide workers’ compensation coverage for most of league’s teams

NFL owners voted last week to pursue an umbrella insurance policy to cover most of its teams’ exposure to workers’ compensation costs.

The action is not directly linked to the controversy over the league’s effort to block former players from non-California teams from filing workers’ compensation claims in that state, but the vote underscores the league’s concern over rapidly rising workers’ compensation costs.

“There is concern that insurers might not want to take this on, so if you put all the teams together, it makes it easier to get coverage,” said one NFL owner, who requested anonymity because the issue in general has become one of such sensitivity. “Hopefully, this will lead to savings.”

The move also brings the NFL into line with the NBA and MLB, which go through a single carrier to provide workers’ compensation coverage. The NHL did not immediately respond for comment on its policies and procedures in this regard.

According to a league spokesman, “[NFL] clubs will continue to have separate policies and pay their own premiums and claims, but through a group workers’ compensation insurance program.”

Workers’ compensation was one of the few unresolved issues coming out of the NFL’s 2011 collective-bargaining agreement. As costs soared and former players sought to file in employee-friendly California whether they played their home games there or not, the NFL has joined other leagues in pushing legislation in that state to restrict players who did not play there from filing in the state.

While the salary cap has stayed largely flat under the new CBA, benefit costs have increased in part because of rising workers’ compensation costs. This has lead to the fears voiced by the owner that insurers will stop covering the liability.

Five or six teams will not be part of the group insurance plan, the owner said. Several states, including Ohio, require employers to buy workers’ compensation insurance through the state.

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