Bikers May Lose Health Care Coverage


New federal regulations that legalize health-care discrimination against

motorcyclists, horse riders and others involved in recreational activities

have taken effect despite concerted efforts by motorcyclists and others to

change the rules. The new regulations became the law of the land on May 8

are the end result of a rulemaking process that dragged on for nearly five

years after Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and

Accountability Act of 1996. The new rules state that an employer can't

refuse health-care coverage to an employee based on participation in legal

recreational activities after working hours, but that health-care benefits

can be denied for injuries suffered while taking part in those activities.

The rules, issued jointly by the Internal Revenue Service, the Pension and

Welfare Benefits Administration, and the Health Care Finance Administration,

directly contradict the intent of Congress in passing this law. In fact,

language in the Congressional Record at the time noted that the law "is

intended to ensure, among other things, that individuals are not excluded

from health-care coverage due to their participation in activities such as

motorcycling, snowmobiling, all-terrain vehicle riding, horseback riding,

skiing and other similar activities."


The AMA and other motorcycling groups worked hard to get that language

included in the Congressional Record after uncovering incidents in which

employers were discriminating against motorcyclists, leaving them without

coverage when they were involved in recreational activities. The AMA noted

at the time that some health plans would provide health-care benefits for

employees involved in illegal activities, like driving a car while drunk,

but cut off those benefits from many legal activities.


For years, the AMA urged President Clinton's administration to finalize

regulations implementing that law. Then, when the regulations were released

on Jan. 5, just before Clinton left office, motorcyclists discovered that

the agencies involved had reversed the intent of the law. The new

regulations went into effect despite the efforts of the AMA, Motorcycle

Riders Foundation, ABATE of Illinois, ABATE of Wisconsin and other

motorcyclists who took the time to comment on the proposed rules, and to

contact members of Congress asking that they urge the new Bush

administration to change the discriminatory parts of the regulations.

"These rules make the entire law meaningless," said Edward Moreland, AMA

vice president for government relations. "They open the door to the

elimination of health coverage for all types of legal recreational

activities, from motorcycle riding to running or walking." The AMA now plans

to join with other motorcycling organizations and recreation groups to go

back to Congress in hopes of getting a new bill passed reinstating the

original intent of the health-insurance bill. "We've already been in contact

with congressional offices to see who might be the best choice to spearhead

an effort in Congress to pass a law to stop this discrimination," Moreland



Moreland noted that U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy

Thompson's office indicated Thompson didn't feel he had the authority to

change the language of the rules, and that he was reluctant to do anything

that might interfere with states' rights to determine the benefit coverages

in their states. Meanwhile, Moreland urged all motorcyclists and others to

check their health-insurance policies to see whether they would receive

health-care benefits if they are hurt while participating in legal

recreational activities.


The time to act was last week! Visit the AMA's Rapid Response Center NOW to

voice your concerns directly to your lawmakers.


American Motorcycle Association