Just over a week ago former Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman Russell Okung authored a Twitter thread on the lack of guaranteed contracts in the NFL compared to other professional sports, and Wednesday he weighed in on another subject that is likely to be of major importance in negotiating the next CBA: health insurance.
Players, obviously, are covered by health insurance while they are under contract to a team, but what happens after their playing days are over? Under the current CBA, qualified NFL players are able to maintain health insurance for up to five years after they retire from the NFL, but five years is hardly a long time for players, many of whom suffer from life long disabilities after their playing days have finished. In any case, here is what Okung had to say on the subject.
The injuries that NFL players sustain throughout our careers last for a lifetime. So why don’t our health benefits? Even Roger Goodell enjoys lifetime healthcare for being the @nflcommish of the game -- and good for him. #RogerCare [THREAD]— Russell Okung (@RussellOkung) March 27, 2019
The NFL is the most violent professional sport in the U.S. 40% of players live with traumatic brain injuries for the rest of our lives.— Russell Okung (@RussellOkung) March 27, 2019
But the tactics used to rewrite these facts and the legal battle attempting to silence former players and withhold their disability coverage is a matter for another thread. I’ll just say that I hope this never happens to @RobGronkowski!— Russell Okung (@RussellOkung) March 27, 2019
The MLB offers lifetime health insurance to anyone who plays 1 DAY in the majors. Read that again. If you play a single game in the MLB you instantly become eligible for the Roger Goodell health plan. https://t.co/0m2G6petey— Russell Okung (@RussellOkung) March 27, 2019
Not sure if you’ve ever watched a baseball game, but it seems slightly less violent than football. ♂️— Russell Okung (@RussellOkung) March 27, 2019
Many of us leave the NFL with broken bodies. We learn new ‘civilian’ skills so that we can afford to shoulder our growing healthcare bills. The savings we accumulate over our short careers doesn’t last forever.— Russell Okung (@RussellOkung) March 27, 2019
We need to be, at minimum, healthy enough to begin and sustain brand new careers. Lifetime coverage is reasonable. I support the Hall of Famers who, along with key allies from @NFLPAFmrPlayers, are making a very reasonable demand for lifetime health insurance and pension parity.— Russell Okung (@RussellOkung) March 27, 2019
Retired players, even the legends, get forgotten, and as active players we need to wake up to the reality that we'll join their ranks soon. #KnowOurWorth2021— Russell Okung (@RussellOkung) March 27, 2019
Now, not to steal the thunder from Okung’s thread, but let me digress for a moment to show you why this is such an important matter to former players using a tweet from former tight end Arthur Lynch. (Also, keep site rules in mind and avoid discussion about the politicization of this issue that part of his tweet obviously brings up.)
After I was cut by the Falcons, I was dropped from @NFL insurance. My back was broken w/ no insurance. I had two back surgeries. Obamacare is why I am not in debt. This is sad. @BarackObama thank you. https://t.co/qdjX8YIsPz— Arthur Lynch (@alynch1788) October 15, 2017
I didn’t. They put a clause in my contract where if I injured my lower back again with Falcons they weren’t liable to pay for surgery or give me a settlement. I was cut, then slipped disc, two surgeries. https://t.co/p1lhtpAoW5— Arthur Lynch (@alynch1788) October 16, 2017
So, how is it that Lynch didn’t qualify for NFL insurance after being cut by the Atlanta Falcons if qualified players have the ability to keep their insurance for up to five years after their playing days are over? The key is the “qualified” qualifier. The short version of a long answer is that Lynch was not qualified under the NFL’s plan, so, while an MLB player gets lifetime health coverage for one day in the major leagues, NFL players can be cut with a broken back and not qualify for health insurance.
In any case, this is just another of the issues that is front and center as the NFL and NFLPA head towards a showdown on the CBA during the coming years.