Bulletin Board: 06/01

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AHC Questions Insurance Wording
The American Horse Council issued a press release in late March covering rules proposed by several federal agencies that could permit employers to exclude health insurance benefits for injuries resulting from riding and other forms of “dangerous” activities such as motorcycling and skiing.

The AHC urged horse people to send comments on the proposed rules to the IRS, the Department of Labor, the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration, and the Health Care Financing Administration by April 9, the cut-off date for commentary.

The AHC’s release raised concerns by many riders that they might lose their health insurance coverage after April 9. However, the action by the AHC was meant to raise awareness of unclear wording of “interim final rules” and to encourage riders to send comments to those federal agencies. This release was not in response to any specific action by insurance companies.

The interim final rules were based on the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. They were proposed late in the Clinton administration and then reviewed by the Bush administration.

“The wording is ambiguous,” said Brooke Robinson of the AHC. “Our interpretation is that a company cannot deny you health-care coverage, but it may be able to deny you benefits for injuries that result specifically from one of those activities.”

Robinson said the rules could be implemented by May. If these rules do affect coverage of riders, skiers, motorcyclists, etc., then that coverage should still depend on the specific health plan held by each employer or group and shouldn’t change without notice.

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Rabid Mare Attacks Owner
An 11-year-old Morgan mare that attacked her owner in March tested positive for rabies. Elizabeth Heldt, who owns Crossroads Equestrian Center, took a series of rabies shots as a result, as did seven others at her facility. The mare, which had been acting unusually affectionate for a couple days, grabbed Heldt on the leg and wouldn’t leg go, cracking her leg bone. Heldt finally stuck her thumb in the mare’s eye and was released. The mare continued in a frenzy, jumped a fence and then died.

The facility was placed on a 45-day quarantine by the state, and Heldt said she has made a self-imposed quarantine of six months for no new horses and no students. She now teaches at another facility. She purchased the mare four months earlier and had been told that the mare was current on her shots. The mare was due for boosters in early April.

Rabies infected 65 horses and mules in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control, down from 82 cases in 1998. Many horsemen believe pastured horses are at greater risk to meet a rabid wild animal and thus may not consider getting rabies shots for horses kept in barns. However, loose horses will usually avoid a strange animal, and rabid animals that get into barns and small pens may be a greater danger.

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Results on AHSA Site
The American Horse Shows Association launched a competition results site in April that allows members to view their class results in AHSA Horse of the Year divisions. Results can take up to three weeks to be posted at www.ahsa.org.

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Life Data Certification
Life Data Labs of Cherokee, Ala., received ISO 9001 certification in late 2000. ISO certification involves design control, inspection and testing, plus other management elements. Life Data makes Farrier’s Formula and other equine products.

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Meat Demand Rises
Fears about mad cow disease caused sales of beef to drop by more than half in parts of Europe in late 2000, and the demand for horsemeat went up at the same time by 30 to 50 percent. This reverses a late ’90s trend that saw horsemeat sales to Europe from the United States drop by two-thirds. That drop was due mostly to the strength of the U.S. dollar against European currencies.

In addition to increased demand, the price for horsemeat has almost doubled. This raised concerns by animal protection groups that there may be a corresponding rise in horse theft. Four U.S. and three Canadian slaughterhouses process horsemeat for shipping to Europe, Mexico and Asia. (See July 2000 Horse Journal for dealing with horse theft.)