May 8, 2001 Motorcyclists and others may lose health benefits 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 American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports. The new regulations, which 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 said. 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. So, if you get hurt, my advise to you is that you "fell off the ladder," "was cleaning my pool and slipped," "was playing softball and twisted my ankle," etc. Get it? You do not own a motorcycle! Those things are dangerous! Right?