A Health Care Challenge of Olympic Proportions

Photo courtesy Women's Ski Jumping USA


Even if you couldn’t tear yourself away from the Olympics yesterday to watch the equally combative, marathon-like health care summit, you can be assured that the someone from the US Olympic Committee was keeping tabs on the debate. Unlike 46 million of their fellow countrymen, the Americans competing at the Olympics up in Vancouver have health care. But the committee still has some skin in the game when it comes to reforming our health care system.

The Center for Public Integrity reports that the committee has hired lobbyists to follow the progress of negotiations:

Like other small organizations that don’t have a lot of employees to spread out the insurance risk, the United States Olympic Committee is finding that covering figure skaters and bobsledders is getting seriously expensive, says Desiree Filippone, the USOC’s director of government relations. That’s why the committee paid $40,000 to the Washington, D.C., lobby firm Monument Policy Group to keep tabs on Congressional health reform efforts and other issues in 2009.

Filippone did not say how much it costs to insure an Olympic star like Lindsey Vonn, who took a spill in the giant slalom Wednesday that required X-rays. American athletes are actually covered through the 46 individual governing bodies for various sports, she said. U.S. Figure Skating covers figure skaters. U.S.A. Curling covers the rock throwers.

“That’s not very cost effective in a lot of ways,” Filippone said, because it means higher premiums than if the groups joined together. “We are trying to figure out if there is a better way to do it. We haven’t found it.”

The National Football League Players Association and the Professional Golfers Association of America have also hired lobbyists on health care this year, CPI notes.

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.