Cost Containment in College Athletics

I’d like to share some thoughts on cost containment relative to the administration of health care in today’s collegiate athletics. As I reflect on my 28 years of service to this sector, the ability to provide the highest level of care in an economic means is a challenge. As a rule, institutions have been more willing to pay non-covered medical expenses of student-athletes at a greater rate in Division I, with less willingness in lower divisions. The financial ability is just greater to provide such services in the higher level divisions.

The NCAA opened the financial flood gates in 2005 when they allowed member institutions to cover any medical expense. Many schools (especially those in Division I) planned to limit the medical expense to only sport related injuries – as had been the case in the past. However, to keep up with the competition, the approval of non-sport related surgeries is increasing. The combination of sport related and these other injuries constitute significant financial burden on departments. All such payments are allowable, but certainly costly to the schools. Further, as administrators, it s prudent to make sure health care is equitable among all student-athletes. I also think it is important that decisions about which student-athletes are covered (which sports) is made by administrators, and not health care providers.

As I travel the country providing consultation services, it amazes me with the variance in the percentage of student-athletes with primary insurance benefits. What is more alarming is the number of schools with no contracts or agreements with their health care providers to address discounts of medical charges for those student-athletes with no medical benefits! The day is long past where a simple 20-25% discount of the medical charge is a good deal for the Athletic Department.

In summary, cost containment is the hottest topic I hear today. We are faced with the present economic climate, and athletics is definitely a microcosm of society. Institutions can review their policies and procedures and generally can free up monies of significant amounts to maintain the standard of care with minimal outlay of monies. This is an involved process, one I have enjoyed working with many clients to develop.

Best of luck as you move down this path. Communication is a key, and having the support of the Athletic Administration is vital. Athletic Departments must maintain objectivity of health care, and many have lost this ability by turning care over to health care providers.


One Response to “Cost Containment in College Athletics”

  1. Ross Bailey Says:

    Rod – I could not agree more with you on the cost containment issues. We have seen a virtual elimination of the “off season” for sports at the D 1 level. This requires not only more supplies and man hours, but further increases the number of “exposures” for our student athletes to get injured and potentially require surgeries. The addition of freshman to the mix in the summer before classes begin in the sports of football and basketball might be good for academics, but they further add to the cost of operations.

    We must all work to create our own preferred provider groups and work to contain costs. The NCAA and the Board of Directors opened the door to extended medical coverage. We try to limit our coverage to athletically related injuries and illness only but even at that, the costs of insurance and out of pocket expenses would fund a lot of athletic teams. We should never cut coverage or care for the student athletes but I think we are seeing the trickle down effect of the total costs of intercollegiate athletics currently with sport and staff reductions at many institutions.

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