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Jocks can't opt out
By David Paul
A policy statement added to the student athlete handbook late this summer, has prohibited Western's athletes from opting out of the student health plan but it doesn't seem like anybody is listening.
"Some athletes may have to opt back in to be eligible to play," said Darwin Semotiuk, chair of Intercollegiate Athletics. Student-athletes are not allowed to opt-out according to Semotiuk, even with proof of adequate coverage.
"Safety is our number one concern for our athletes," he said. "Just like our coaches need quality training, it is up to us to provide adequate health care."
According to Semotiuk, since health plans have spending ceilings, student-athletes can benefit by being covered under two plans. "The potential benefits are primarily in the area of physiotherapy, bracing, orthotics and a drug plan," he said.
He is also concerned with how many athletes think their parents' plan is better than the university's, adding how this is often not the case. "If you're injured in competition or in training, you might be faced with looking at the prospect of not having any medical insurance to cover the treatment required," he said.
However, not being allowed to opt-out is news to Jim Wardle of Western's cross country team and fifth-year student at Althouse College. With both of his parents working for the provincial government Wardle said his health coverage is much better than the university's package. "I could basically double the Ontario health budget if I wanted to," he said jokingly.
Wardle said he has opted out of the coverage every year. He added how making the package mandatory wasn't fair to athletes. "For people in my type of situation, I think it's kind of a rip-off."
According to Semotiuk, who said he has received some complaints from athletes, IA is currently looking into an alternative for those with adequate coverage. However, at present, athletes are not allowed to opt-out, he said.
Women's rugby player and fourth-year Administrative and Commercial Studies student Ang Donovan opted-out of the plan a couple of weeks ago. "They never asked me if I was a varsity athlete," she said.
Health plan administrator Nick Vassiliou said while athletes are discouraged from opting-out, he can't stand in their way if they really want to. "They can do whatever they want." he said.
Vassiliou asked the athletic department for a list of students who aren't eligible to opt-out, but he hasn't seen one yet. "It's their responsibility to make sure their athletes do not opt-out of the program," he said.
Semotiuk added he is looking into changing the official policy and generating a list. He said he is also hoping to make the necessary changes before the Oct. 1 opt-out deadline. "We're working on it as we speak."