Thu | Aug 22, 2019

Dalton Myers | Wanted: More awareness of JAIP

Published:Saturday | January 19, 2019 | 12:00 AM
In this 2016 file photograph, Eric Hosin (left), president of Guardian Life Limited, and then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller complete the contract signing at the press launch of the Jamaican Athletes Insurance Plan at the Office of the Prime Minister on Thursday, January 28, 2016. Looking on are former minister with responsibility for sports, Natalie Neita-Headley (standing); (third left) Elaine Foster Allen, permanent secretary, Office of the Prime Minister; Claudette Ashman, vice-president legal compliance and risk, Guardian Life; and Alicia Foster, vice-president sales and marketing, employee benefits, Guardian Life.

I've always believed that the Jamaican Athletes Insurance Plan (JAIP) was a very good initiative by the Government that is geared at developing sport in Jamaica. It therefore bothers me that ever since the launch and implementation of the programme in 2016, several ministry officials, including the Minister of Sports, Olivia Grange, have had to publicly urge athletes to be part of the plan.

In 2015, Cabinet approved the Insurance plan to provide more than 1,000 athletes across all sports with group health as well as life and personal accident insurance. The plan was then launched at the Office of the Prime Minister in 2016. At the time, the Government outlined that Guardian Insurance would provide group health insurance for 1,323 athletes from approximately 28 national sports associations that were registered with the JAIP. The Government also indicated that as part of the plan, Allied Insurance Brokers, through Sagicor, would provide personal accident insurance.

You can understand then why it bothers me that the Government has had to be pleading with member associations to have their athletes apply to this plan particularly because medical expenses have been among the major challenges for Jamaican athletes, especially amateurs trying to make it to the professional level. Lack of medical support leads to issues with athlete-injury management and injury prevention as well as creates psychological barriers for athletes when they are then not able to train and compete at their best .

Sadly, many athletes are still not aware of the plan, and in some cases, are ignorant of the benefits. In April 2018, Director of Sport Policy in the ministry Suzette Ison, speaking at the 'More than an Athlete: Not Just a Player' symposium, mentioned that many athletes were still not aware of the programme. She encouraged all athletes to check with their national associations to ascertain registration status. She even said that once an athlete was on the development squad or the national team, he/she should be registered so as to be eligible for the plan. Grange has made similar comments over the past six months, even suggesting that associations need to find ways to get athletes on board.

In a space where we argue that Government is not doing enough, I would want to believe that any support given would be taken up by athletes and their support personnel. The interesting thing is that ever so often, we see or hear of athletes who meet the criteria for the JAIP but have not applied, seeking financial support from the Government or the general public. The minister wants more athletes registered in the plan, especially since her Government had seen the importance of the project and continued to fund it through the National Health Fund, the Sports Development Foundation, CHASE, and the Tourism Enhancement Fund for over $60 million.

 

INDUSTRY CHALLENGES

 

This is part of a broader issue, though, and speaks to some of the challenges we have in this country in building our sports industry. Some athletes do not opt into the plan because they already have personal plans or coverage through their tertiary institutions, et cetera. Others don't because they believe being part of it equates to being "controlled" or bonded by the Government. Others are told by support personnel not to apply for various reasons. The other challenge is that some athletes genuinely are not aware of the benefits because their support personnel themselves are not familiar with those benefits. Lastly, some athletes genuinely believe that any sport benefit is for track and field and other 'traditional' sports and not for those in the other disciplines. Maybe greater public awareness is needed so that we can get more persons on board.

I think the ministry should conduct some focus groups to ascertain the reasons for athletes not taking up this opportunity. They should also host more forums and workshops while working closely with the Jamaica Olympic Association and the Sports Development Foundation to get more support from national sporting associations for the JAIP.

We have several athletes whose careers were cut short due to the inability to source funding to manage an injury. I hope this urging by the Government will be helpful.

- Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to daltonsmyers@gmail.com or tweet @daltonsmyers