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League informs agents of player COBRA rights in event of lockout

Another day, another tangible piece of evidence pointing to a March 4 lockout.

Jason La Canfora of NFL Network reports that the league has sent a letter to all player agents on Thursday regarding the players’ rights to ongoing health insurance coverage in the event of a work stoppage. The federal COBRA law provides all players with the ability to pay their full premium for up to 18 months.

“I have repeatedly been told by agents and players that you are not getting reliable information on this point, and in recent months, there has in fact been a great deal of misinformation circulated on this subject,” NFL senior V.P. of labor litigation and policy Dennis Curran said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by La Canfora. “Some of that misinformation has included suggestions that wives of players need to induce labor prematurely to give birth before March 4, that children with serious illnesses will lose their insurance coverage overnight, or other equally inaccurate and inflammatory statements.

“The insurance can be paid for by the player or the NFLPA,” Curran explained. “But even if the current CBA expires, and even if there is a work stoppage, no player is at any risk of losing insurance for himself or his family unless he chooses to let that insurance lapse, or becomes covered under another plan.”

At times, the union has pointed generally to the absence of health insurance as of March 4, often pointing out the availability of COBRA coverage only when pressed. Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, a member of the NFLPA Executive Committee, said last month during a conference call that the monthly premium for Fujita and his family will be $3,000.

The union last week encouraged players to explore the availability of alternative insurance, through devices such as a spouse’s employer or for players under 26 their parents’ coverage.