WrestleMania is here, and one of the hottest topics is….HEALTHCARE? Rob chimes in.
Yeah I know, that’s exactly what you come here for. But in light of John Oliver’s piece on how WWE treats it’s wrestlers I figured it would be a good idea to look at the subject a little more in depth to get a better idea of what it would look like if the WWE actually gave it’s wrestlers health insurance. Healthcare is a complicated subject, something you can’t properly discuss in a 20 minute news entertainment feature where a lot of your quotes are more than 10 years old and you’re digging up CM Punk because of who he appeals to. Healthcare for a unique, specific group like professional wrestlers just isn’t that simple.
Before you even get to the regular factors that go into determining premiums for the rest of us, you have to account for the fact that they are in an extremely high risk pool given the nature of their work and the amount of time that they travel, and that the pool itself that isn’t very big. If you grouped all the full time pro wrestlers together accross every company you’d have a pretty small pool compared to a lot of other professions and other demographics. You’re literally talking about the special case of all special cases; they’re not as danger prone as NFL players at work but far more than you or I (unless we start having keyboard fights where I work).
As it stands right now, WWE (and other companies like ROH, Impact, and soon to be AEW) pay for surgery and rehab for anyone who gets injured on the job. They don’t provide health insurance. Now on the surface that looks bad, but from a pure money perspective it all depends on your personal situation. Given how much WWE wrestlers get paid a lot of them, maybe even a majority, would make out better paying out of pocket when the need arises than to they would by paying what would be really high premiums every month and then high deductibles when they did need to use it. Barring some serious injury or illness that requires hospitalization, surgery, or ongoing medical treatment then someone making a million dollars a year would definitely be better off financially just paying out of pocket. A $300 dental bill, which you can get hit with even if you have insurance, is something that someone like John Cena or even Tyler Breeze can pay on their own whereas instead of paying a high premium for the month and still having to pay the $300 anyway. Again, it is literally a case by case situation but don’t think for one minute that they’re not all sitting down and figuring this out be it with an accountant or on their own and then choosing accordingly.
But cost isn’t only an issue to the wrestlers, it will be an issue to the company they work for as well. Who cares about that though, right? As long as evil Vince does what’s right everything’s cool, right? Umm…….not exactly. Don’t think for one minute that Vince (or the Khan family in AEW or Sinclair Broadcasting that own Ring of Honor for that matter) are going to take on that big a liability without passing the cost on to us. And we’re not talking about twenty five cents per purchase passed along to us like the guy who used to run Papa John’s Pizza was complaining about. Health insurance for wrestlers isn’t the same as health insurance for pizza delivery people. But if you’re ok with that then there are some other potential unintended consequences, mainly towards who may get to work forward. Please understand that an almost 40 year old Daniel Bryan with his 15-plus concussions (that we know of), neck and shoulder problems, and whatever other kind of wear and tear his body has endured would cost so much to get health insurance for that neither Vince nor the Khan family or Sinclair may think it’s worth it.
That goes for all the other guys and gals who have been working for over a decade and have all kinds things going on that may not hinder them from working but would raise red flags on a physical were they to take one. And women in general are already subjected to higher healthcare costs for all sorts of reasons, some really ridiculous, so I imagine a woman wrestler of any age will be even more insane to insure. You force WWE or AEW or ROH into the world of health and liability insurance (which is proving to be more and more difficult for even the NFL now), and you are fundamentally altering who gets to work at that level as anyone deemed too expensive could find themselves locked out unless everyone adopts the ROH model of letting people work elsewhere but also paying them that way, too.
And we haven’t even gotten to the real slippery slope: healthcare for former wrestlers. Health insurance for active workers may be doable, but providing the same for former wrestlers is a financial time bomb. You think it costs a lot for active guys/gals, wait until you try to insure 55 year olds who are now going through the effects of taking all those crazy bumps in their 20s and 30s and 40s. There is a pretty big graveyard of companies whose cause of death was healthcare for retirees. WWE is a pure retail company; they are not going to get a government bailout if things get really bad and they’re not hooked to an endless supply of cash like a publicly financed arena that they didn’t have to pay a dime for and get a piece of the action from all year like professional sports teams.
They’re not owned by an actual TV Network like Ring of Honor is by Sinclair Broadcasting or an NFL owning family like the Khans. They are really out there on their own so every dollar they bring in counts and they can’t afford to go down certain roads no matter how many times you hear the words ‘billion dollar TV deal’. That’s not a license to print money and it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what the NFL is making off of TV. WWE just got two TV deals that total $2 billion but the NFL’s TV contracts pay $3 billion per year. They also bring in over $10 billion per year in revenue while WWE celebrates hitting $1 billion. Yes it’s all big numbers but everything is relative and one goes a whole lot further than the other.
So again, this isn’t as easy to do as it sounds. The best bet would probably be for the wrestlers to get SAG to allow them to join, and get health insurance that way. Then it would be available to all of them and not just the ones who work in WWE. I mean that is what we want, right? For all of them to be able to get better access to healthcare through health insurance, right? Because the men and women working indies have just as much need to see doctors as the ones working in WWE, except they’re not getting paid as much so paying out of pocket is just like me or you having to do it. There were a few indie guys doing GoFundMe’s for surgery last year already. We are concerned about them too, right? Right? Or do we just want to take shots at Evil Vince because it’s so easy to do? If John Oliver had done that same report for either Ring of Honor, who can afford to do it more than WWE can, you’d be just as concerned for Jay Lethal and Dalton Castle (who was out there last year with damn near half his body bandaged up) as you are for Bryan and Roman Reigns……right? Right?
Not a simple problem and not a simple solution at all. So be careful what you wish for, it may not go like you think.