Monday, January 02, 2017

Repealing the ACA Will Hurt the CrossFit Coaches Who Keep You Healthy

Fitness buff and exercise enthusiast Paul Ryan is determined to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The ACA is how many who work in the fitness industry get their insurance.

As an American who is horrified by the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act I’ve made a commitment to find out how this law touches people in my life and to speak out on behalf of those whose access to health care is threatened. Over the last month I’ve been asking people how they get their health coverage. One group of people I decided to talk to were CrossFit coaches. I joined CrossFit more than two years ago when I moved to North Carolina. I’ve spoken about the amazing difference it has made in my life. I wondered whether the coaches who have had such an impact on my health have access to health care so they can take care of their own health.

I reached out to more than a dozen CrossFit coaches who coach at a half-dozen different boxes (gyms.) What I found is that most CrossFit coaches don’t receive insurance from their employer – most are employed part time – but are on their own to find insurance however they can. For some coaching is a part-time side-gig and they get health insurance through their main employer. Others work in the fitness industry without benefits but get coverage from a spouse or partner’s employer. But numerous coaches told me that they get health insurance through the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act.

One coach wrote to me about her experience trying to find affordable health insurance. “The only reason I can currently afford healthcare is because of the marketplace. Before the ACA went through I just assumed I would be able to find a job that would provide health coverage. But I was incredibly incorrect. The only job I could find that did provide it paid barely over minimum wage so I chose to leave it after not being able to pay bills. A good number of coaches do go without health care coverage but all of the ones that I know who have it and are not employed outside of the fitness industry have either catastrophic coverage or go through the marketplace.”

Another coach told me that he also get health insurance through the ACA exchanges. He earns a living by coaching at multiple boxes, working as a personal trainer, and offering fascial stretch therapy and other services to athletes. The ACA makes this possible.

About a third of the coaches I reached out to are insured through an individual plan either purchased through the exchanges or on the open market. As one coach writes, “I’m afraid of what will happen when the ACA is repealed. What will happen to my current coverage?”

Coach Natalie, one of the coaches who has health insurance because of the ACA. 

I am glad to report that all the coaches I spoke with have health insurance. However, many of them told me that they know of others who work in the fitness industry who go without coverage. In recent years there have been stories of elite CrossFit athletes who’ve suffered injuries and had no health insurance. The most well-known is Kevin Ogar, who suffered a severe spinal injury at a fitness competition. Ogar, who did not have health insurance, worked part-time as a CrossFit coach and part-time for Whole Foods.

It is an embarrassment and a political and moral failure that anyone in our country lacks health insurance. It is ironic and tragic that many who work in the fitness industry – the coaches and trainers who devote their lives to helping people become healthy and fit – are in danger of losing health insurance because of the Republican agenda to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is the man leading the charge against the ACA. You can find story after story about his intense, P90X and CrossFit-inspired workouts and his enthusiasm for physical fitness. Ryan is covered by a government-provided Cadillac health insurance plan. But he seems to care only about his own health. He has no qualms about screwing over the young people who work in the fitness industry.