NFL Is Not ‘Ready for Some Obamacare’

footballThe National Football League appears to have quashed the Obama Administration’s hopes that it would help the administration promote the Affordable Care Act to the league’s enormous fanbase. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had expressed hope that the NFL and other major sports leagues would help get the word out about the benefits of signing up for the healthcare exchanges and other aspects of the health-reform law — not surprisingly, given that the administration is counting on millions of young and relatively healthy enrollees to help offset the costs of older and sicker patients who enroll in the exchanges.

A statement released the other week by the NFL said the league had “no plans” to help educate the public about the ACA. The NFL, Major League Baseball and other major sports associations had been urged to stay away from any such promotional efforts in a letter by two Republican senators, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn of Texas, in which they wrote that “it is difficult to understand why an organization like yours would risk damaging its inclusive and apolitical brand by lending its name to (the ACA’s) promotion.

The NFL’s move was applauded by conservative pundits such as the Heritage Foundation’s Alyene Senger, a research associate for the organization’s Center for Health Policy Studies, who said that it was smart for the organization to keep its distance from a politically charged topic. “A majority of the American people still disapprove of [the ACA]. A recent Gallup Poll shows that 52 percent generally disapprove with only 44 percent approving … . I would assume that the [NFL’s] decision is just that they don’t want to attach their name to something that is so divisive with the American public today,” she writes.

Yet, even though the NFL may want to keep its distance, its players will surely benefit from the ACA, writes Travis Waldron on the liberal ThinkProgress website. Retired NFL players are significantly more likely than the general public to suffer from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and ALS, as well as cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases, he writes. Waldron cites a 2008 Congressional Research Service study that found that, for example, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana sought health insurance after he retired, the “lowest estimate he received was $106,000 per year, because he was considered to be in a high-risk group.” Because the ACA eliminates pre-existing conditions clauses, Waldron writes, it opens the doors to coverage for players whom insurance companies would not have covered before.