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What’s Your “88 Plan”?

It seems more and more to me, that dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are everywhere, but then, maybe as an elder law attorney I am more tuned to it.  In the last month three notable celebrities died or were diagnosed with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, actor, Peter Falk of Columbo fame, “Rhinestone Cowboy”, singer, Glen Campbell and NFL football Hall of Famer, John Mackey.

 Mackey was a tight end for the Baltimore Colts in the 1960’s and early 1970’s after having played his college ball with some great Syracuse teams in the early 1960’s.  He later became the first president of the NFL Players’ Association and was instrumental in efforts to secure pensions and other benefits for retired and ailing players.  Football is a violent sport and like many players Mackey began to suffer from dementia.  In his last years he needed to be cared for in an assisted living facility.

 Mackey played in the days before athletes made millions.  His wife, Sylvia, therefore, had to go back to work as a flight attendant to pay their bills and because they needed the health insurance.  As the disease progressed, however, the Mackeys realized what many of our clients come to learn, that traditional health insurance won’t cover long term care.  That’s when Sylvia Mackey and other wives and children of former NFL players pursued the NFL and its Players Association to establish the 88 Plan.

 Named in honor of John Mackey, whose uniform number was 88, the plan provides up to $88,000 a year to cover long term care for former NFL players with dementia.  Much has been written about the connection between football and brain injuries although the NFL still insists there isn’t any higher incidence of dementia in football players than there is in the general population.  Maybe the 88 plan is just the NFL recognizing what I have been saying for a long time, that long term care is a big problem in this country and the owners and players are doing what we all should, implementing a plan to solve the problem.

 The Mackeys’ story is instrumental.  It’s a story of a wife who suffered along with her husband, supporting him physically, financially, emotionally and psychologically the best she could.  It’s also a lesson about being unprepared.  The Mackeys didn’t have a plan, but they were lucky.  They convinced John Mackey’s former employer to come through with the “88 Plan”.  The question then is, “who’s going to provide your 88 Plan?”  Chances are you’ll have to do it yourself so the sooner you get started the better off you’ll be, unless you’re thinking the NFL is going to help us all out – just as soon as they figure out how to solve their lockout and save the coming season.  Yeah, right.