Madden Legislation Requiring Insurance Coverage For Annual Athletic Fitness Physicals Clears Committee

Would Ensure Screening For Heart Conditions In Student Athletes

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Fred Madden (D – Gloucester, Camden) that would require certain health insurers to cover the cost of annual physical examinations for student athletes has cleared the Senate Commerce Committee. The exam would be done to determine if the student is physically fit for student athletic or camp activities, particularly in the area of heart health.

‘The tragedy of sudden death in our young people is simply happening far too often. This is made even worse when we realize it does not have to be this way. The more thorough we screen student athletes, the better the chances of discovering a heart condition before it is too late. This legislation can and will save lives,” said Madden.

The bill, S-1910, would specifically be aimed at hospital, medical, and health corporations; commercial, individual, and group health insurers; health maintenance organizations (HMOs); the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP) and the School Employees’ Health Benefits Program (SEHBP). The bill would take effect on the 120th day following enactment and would apply to policies or contracts issued or renewed on or after that date.

The pre-participation physical examinations are not meant to replace a regular annual health maintenance visit. The current system of medical insurance covers only one annual physical examination for active adolescents. This may force the healthcare provider to choose between focusing on the general medical, social, and behavioral issues critical to adolescent development or on issues directly related to safe athletic participation.

The measure is just one of a series of bills Senator Madden has sponsored that came from recommendations made by the New Jersey Student Athlete Cardiac Screening Task Force, which officially issued its report earlier in the year on how to prevent sudden cardiac death in student athletes between the ages of 12 and 19. Additional legislation he has sponsored include: The “Children’s Sudden Cardiac Events Reporting Act,” S-1911, which would require the reporting of children’s sudden cardiac events and establish a statewide database to keep track of such information; the “Scholastic Student Athlete Safety Act,” S-1912, which would update the pre-participation history and physical examination form, ensure all healthcare professionals who conduct pre-participation histories and physical examinations of student athletes are properly licensed, ensure these same individuals participate in the appropriate continuing education courses, and that all student athletes and their parents or guardians certify that they have read and reviewed the “Sudden Cardiac Death in Young Athletes” pamphlet.

“The task force recommendations were a great first step, but we render them meaningless if we don’t move to act on them. I want to make these recommendations a reality, and I look forward to working with the governor, my colleagues in the Legislature and members of the task force on this issue,” added Madden.

In 2009, the Legislature responded to growing concern over a growing number of sudden deaths in student athletes by passing Senator Madden’s legislation establishing the task force. The task force was given the responsibility of studying, evaluating and developing recommendations relating to specific actionable measures to enhance screening of student athletes for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and other life-threatening cardiac conditions.

The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.