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(Photo: Danny Peters)

Fire on Fridays: Insuring Young Racecar Drivers

No one seems to talk about insurance for athletes these days. And that’s a shame.

It’s actually wrong that no one talks about it. It should be discussed, and there should be more ways to help athletes afford protection. In fact, from basic health insurance to disability insurance, there are few public discussions about this issue.

A recent CBS Sports story explained that “premiums run approximately $8,000 per $1 million of coverage.” That’s not cheap, especially in the world of motorsports, where families are shelling out their life savings so their children can race.

The world of healthcare in racing is seldom discussed. Few drivers like to discuss their personal finances, especially insurance premiums. Thanks to an advancement in technology and safety, injuries seldom occur. But they do happen.

It’s bad enough young families need to spend a ridiculous amount to race, let alone the insurance costs associated with it.

Injuries in racing will happen, whether or not you expect it to happen. Imagine how much money Aric Almirola would have spent in the emergency room last year after he was injured in this Kansas Speedway wreck.

Surgeries. Rehab. The hospital stay alone. It’s not cheap.

Thanks to the creation of telehealth, a way to receive care and consultation from doctors through technology, there are now ways for young racers to save money. This can be a key way for families to race smart as their children grow up, and the market is growing.

“Going to a lot of quarter-midget races, I saw a need for it,” Rod Wortham, founder of Race Face Tel-Med, said. “Some of these events last four to five days and parents would joke the kids wouldn’t get sick until the Friday before a big event. Well, you better get them care in a hurry.

“It made sense to roll out a tele-med program to the racing community.”

Race Face Tel-Med is one of the newest healthcare companies geared toward the racing realm. It has a series of package deals that serve as an alternative to going to the emergency room.

So how can that save money? Well, you still need to buy health insurance (everyone should since we don’t have universal healthcare in America). But companies like Race Face are meant to find ways to help you save money, whether it’s avoiding emergency room visits, cheaper prescriptions or even regular doctor appointments.

“It’s not health insurance,” Wortham said. “It covers pretty much everything, like a free Rx card with it, dental and vision. You can be treated over the phone or on something like Skype. If you’re out on the road, you don’t have to worry about where you’ll end up.”

About 10 percent of children who play sports end up in the emergency room, according to Insurance Thought Leadership. Sometimes, young drivers will feel like they’re invincible.

“I’ll never get hurt.”

Guess again. You never know what can happen.

The addition of telehealth to the racing world can make a difference. It’s already having an impact on those outside of sports, and the trend is shifting as technology advances.

Who knows what will happen as virtual reality and augmented reality continue to get more detailed. The technology can truly have an impact. Now, people won’t have to wait hours upon hours to get care in an emergency room.

“There are a lot of people who go on this program and don’t have insurance,” Wortham said. “There’s no way they could get medications called in for them on emergency-based need unless they go to the emergency room or urgent care, and that average’s out to about $600 per visit.”

But telehealth isn’t the last step. Even young drivers need to be protected by disability insurance in case there is a catastrophic on-track incident. It happens, and you never know when it will occur.

This story from Darras Law, a disability firm, discusses NASCAR drivers and insurance, saying: “High limit individual disability insurance policies can pay a substantial portion of a driver’s salary if he or she is temporarily disabled or replace some of those projected mega earnings if that driver cannot return to the track because of a permanent injury or chronically disabling medical condition.”

Let’s hope young drivers and their families will do whatever they can to make sure they are protected. It’s not too late to make a difference.

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About Joseph Wolkin

Joseph Wolkin
Joseph started with Fronstretch in Aug. 2014 and worked his way up to become an editor in less than a year. A native of Whitestone, New York, Joseph writes for NASCAR Pole Position magazine as a weekly contributor, along with being a former intern at Newsday and the Times Beacon Record Newspapers, each on Long Island. With a focus on NASCAR, he runs our social media pages and writes the NASCAR Mailbox column, along with other features for the site.

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