Two local sporting bodies are expressing gratitude to the government ahead of tomorrow’s start of the Jamaican Athletes’ Insurance Plan (JAIP).
The JAIP, which was launched last Thursday at the Office of the Prime Minister, is to provide sustainable insurance, pension and retirement coverage for eligible national athletes who are members of a national association or federation.
At the launch, it was said that 517 female and 806 male athletes from across 28 sporting bodies were eligible. Netball Jamaica President Paula Daley-Morris said the insurance plan will offset much of the expense borne by the association. “This insurance plan that we are a part of, we are extremely grateful for it because we spend millions on health insurance. We have several squads that are usually in training for international and regional competitions,” she told the Jamaica Observer after the launch.
The health cards can only be used in Jamaica. The cost of premiums will be shared between the Government of Jamaica and the sport associations and federations. The government is to contribute 95 per cent, while collectively, the sporting bodies are to cover the other five per cent.
“The fact that we are only paying five per cent for the overall health insurance for our players is going to help us in terms of keeping more money in our kitty. We are extremely grateful for the benevolence of the government and we certainly hope this will allow us to do more with the limited resources we have working with.
“We have health practitioners volunteering with us for years and we’ve never been able to pay them. So at least now we can attract more, and the ones that are so loyal can now benefit in that the services they give will not be totally free,” explained Daley-Morris.
The netball boss, who has only been in charge two months since taking over the reins from long-time president, Marva Bernard, was thankful to her predecessor. Bernard is a member of the committee tasked with recommending a sustainable welfare plan for athletes. “I feel lucky to be the one in this position. Not to have this expense is going to be very helpful to me as a young president. I know that Mrs Bernard worked hard on the committee for this to come through so I’m grateful to her, not only for netball, but sports in general,“ said Daley-Morris.
Wilford ‘Billy’ Heaven, the president of the Jamaica Cricket Association, said JAIP should be considered a “remarkable start” as government looks to implement measures aimed at improving the welfare of national athletes. “You can’t avoid injuries in sport; it comes with the territory, so when you can have a mechanism like this in place to provide support for our athletes…it is a remarkable start. “It’s a move in the right direction. We can all sit back and say it’s overdue, but I also believe nothing happens before its time. I think we should all applaud the efforts of the government, the Prime Minister [Portia Simpson Miller] and the minister with responsibility for sport [Natalie Neita Headley] and the National Sport Council,” Heaven told the Observer.
“From a cricketing point of view it will go a far way in terms of enhancing the sport, and in the development of the sport. Sportsmen and sportswomen, in the early stages of development, are not necessarily endowed with a lot of cash, so it can become a struggle where health matters are concerned,” the cricket boss added. Over the past two seasons in particular, there have been several cases of cricketers sustaining injuries that required medical attention. Meanwhile, Simpson Miller, who has direct oversight of the sport portfolio, said the government has invested $1.5 billion on sport development and infrastructure over the last three years.
“We are serious about the business of sport,” she said during her speech at the JAIP inauguration. “We have spent more than $1.5 billion on sport infrastructure across Jamaica in the last three years.” She pointed to the $250-million funding of the High School Sport Infrastructure Improvement Project (HSSIIP). The Jamaican prime minister added that “since April 2015, $70 million has been allocated in the national budget for national associations and federations to offset costs associated with using the facilities at Independence Park Limited”.
Simpson Miller said that last year Cabinet approved a budget of $39 million to support the development of a national sport museum, to be located next to the Bob Marley statue, across from the National Stadium.
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