Last month, Julia Glotz’s injury sustained during the Wodapalooza qualifier and the subsequent GoFundMe page created some controversy within the CrossFit community. Glotz suffered a broken arm on the bear complex that required surgery. She, however, did not have medical insurance and friends’ of Glotz set up a GoFundMe page to help with the medical bills that we starting to pile up. To date, over $17,000 has been donated to the GoFundMe campaign.
Many in the CrossFit community became vocal about the irresponsibility of athletes competing and pushing themselves in competition without health insurance. Some also argued that it was not fair to ask for donations when the person did not protect themselves with health insurance. Others, however, made comments saying health insurance was too costly or that it did not matter the circumstances and it was good to help someone in need.
Glotz is not the first uninsured athlete to be injured while competing in a functional fitness event. Back in January 2014, Kevin Ogar was paralyzed while competing at the OC Throwdown. Ogar, who was also uninsured at the time, was injured following a failed snatch attempt. While the circumstances of Ogar’s injury was different and litigation ensued regarding the organizing event’s liability in the injury, both athletes, Ogar and Glotz, did not have health insurance at the time. Ogar’s Fundly page raised over $400,000.
After seeing how the CrossFit community reacted to those competing without health insurance, we reached out to some of the top CrossFit athletes to find out if competing while being uninsured was commonplace or an anomaly. We messaged and received back responses from 29 CrossFit athletes who have competed at the CrossFit Games and/or CrossFit Regionals.
Of the 29 athletes who responded, only one did not have coverage in some fashion. Another athlete does not have insurance, but is able to receive medical care through the VA following his military service. A different athlete said that he was covered through his wife’s health insurance provided by her employer, but if that was not the case he would likely not be covered.
The majority, however, did say they had health insurance. In total, 27 of the 29 athletes who responded were covered. Some received health insurance through their employers while others through their spouses. A couple said that they were still on their parents’ insurance plans. As part of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), children and young adults under the age of 26 can stay on their parents’ health insurance plans.
Keep in mind, the Affordable Care Act has an individual mandate requiring individuals to enroll in health insurance or pay a penalty. The individual mandate went into effect in 2014, the same year as Ogar’s injury.
As for the cost of obtaining health insurance, government subsidies are available for those whose income is between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. As of March 2016, 9.4 million people were receiving premium subsidies through the exchanges.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 12.8% of adults aged 18-64 are uninsured. Based on the 29 responses, competitive CrossFit athletes reflect half of that percentage. So while stories like Julia Glotz’s make headlines and create the impression that there are many athletes who are competing without health insurance, it is more likely that most people are insured.
Competing in the sport of CrossFit (or any physically demanding sport) carries the risk of injury. In some situations an athlete is injured without insurance and/or the costs following an incident that are covered by health insurance are significant. In those cases, the CrossFit community has supported one another by donating on sites such as GoFundMe or Fundly. The good news is that it appears that most CrossFit athletes are aware of the risk they are taking and have health insurance.