Ok, so Taxpayer Tuesday isn’t really a thing…but this question definitely is. Football FINALLY opened this weekend, and while I sat around drinking my free Dunkin Donuts coffee thanks to a spectacular win by the Eagles, I got to thinking about a different game the NFL has been playing lately: a back-and-forth in the settlement of a lawsuit by former players with concussive brain injuries. Last Thursday, the NFL and more than 4,500 retired players reached a proposed $765-million settlement of concussion-related lawsuits.
That’s a lot of money, and it’s a little early in the semester to be doing math…but let’s do it anyway.
Half of the $765-million will be paid out in the first three years, and the other half will be spread out over the subsequent 17 years, with adjustments for inflation. The delayed payments mean that owners will come out on top if their return on the money is greater than the inflation adjustment. AND, if trends in medical costs continue as they have over the past few years and injury-related care costs rise faster than inflation, then this settlement won’t fully protect the players.
But wait, there’s more! As much as $89 million of the money will go towards baseline medical tests and medical research grants. $4 million will go towards informing the players of the terms. Divide that number by 4,500 players, and that’s $889 per player, and this still doesn’t account for legal fees.
Medical researchers cite that for traumatic brain injuries, treatments cost millions of dollars over a lifetime at the high end, $100,000 at the very least.
If you divide up what’s left of the settlement money by the amount of players, everyone is left with about $150,000. NFL players only have health insurance for the length of their careers plus five years, and most of these players are now unemployable due to on-the-job injuries. So is this number enough to cover the players’ medical costs? Probably not.
So the question still remains: If the settlement doesn’t even cover the costs of medical care, let alone lost future wages, who will bear the burden of covering these costs?
If the players cannot file for medical coverage, many of them will fall back on taxpayer-subsidized programs such as Medicaid and Social Security Disability. The NFL has essentially shifted the costs of its concussion litigation from itself, to the taxpayers. Just something to keep in mind next Sunday!
Is this acceptable? Unavoidable? Thoughts?