Navigating the global health insurance maze is no cup of
tea. Luckily, the yacht has you covered. Or does it? Not every yacht offers a
good health insurance plan — and even if it does, you may be better off with
your own. Read on to find out what you may not know — but should — when it
comes to your health insurance.
1. Your yacht’s health
insurance may not cover you off the boat.
As Clive Evans, chairman and founder of Yachting Financial
Solutions, puts it, the health insurance package offered by your yacht usually covers
you at work only.
“As soon as you walk down that gangplank, you’re not
covered,” he says. “Does it cover you on holiday? Does it cover you for all the
things yachties like doing? Snowboarding? Skiing? Most of it won’t. Some of it
might, but it depends on how generous your employer is.”
However, Anita Warwick of Seven Seas Health points out that
more vessels than before provide comprehensive health coverage on and off the
vessel. If the yacht is compliant with MLC, 2006, in addition to medical
coverage, it should also provide dental and disability income protection in
accordance with the flag state.
Note that the vessel is responsible for work-related accidents
and illnesses; there’s often a “crew accident” cover on the vessel’s Protection
and Indemnity policy, says Warwick. This accident coverage is different than health
insurance. If there is coverage on board, check that it’s primary to the
P&I, suggests GeoBlue’s Jill Capelli.
“You also want to read the fine print related to the
exclusions,” Capelli says. “Some plans will not cover certain crew activities
such as sailboat racing and scuba diving. Another exclusion to pay attention to
is ‘alcohol-related injuries,’ which many plans have listed as an exclusion.”
2. Even if the yacht
offers a comprehensive plan, you may still need an individual plan.
Evans is a huge advocate of having your own health insurance
independent of the boat. Sound expensive? He promises it pays out.
“Unfortunately, people buy the cheapest [plan], and then
find out it doesn’t pay out,” Evans says. “What’s the point in paying for
something that won’t actually pay out if something happens? It’s a complete
waste of money.”
Think about it — do you plan on staying on your current
yacht forever? The answer is probably no. In which case, investing in an
individual plan may be your best bet, as you can take it with you as you move
from boat to boat, if you’re between jobs, or if you’re taking time off.
“With an individual plan, you enjoy unique portability and
do not have to deal with new qualifying periods related to certain benefits
such as preventative care of coverage for preexisting medical conditions,” says
Warwick adds that it’s important to get insurance while
healthy and before pre-existing conditions may result in a rate increase or,
worst case, denial.
3. Widespread geographical
coverage is critical.
When researching a policy and policyholder, Capelli advises
looking at coverage and limits within your home country as home coverage is
important if you end up home for the holidays or take a temporary leave from
“Crew also need to make sure they have access to quality
care around the globe with a global PPO network,” she adds, emphasizing the
importance of reliable inpatient and outpatient coverage. “Whether [you’re]
yachting in the Galapagos Islands or the Mediterranean, be sure the insurance
carrier can access the best care no matter where they are in the world.”
As international travelers, having the support of a
specialty company that can connect you to the best healthcare available in many
destinations is critical for crew. According to Capelli, a global plan can
coordinate and pay to safely evacuate a crewmember to a leading center of
excellence if local care is not reliable.
4. Coverage in the
U.S. matters more than you think it does — whether you’re U.S. crew or not.
Changes in U.S. health laws (the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare)
mean that there is a lot more to assess when choosing the right health
insurance plan. As Capelli points out, crew policies now have a limit for time
spent within the United States, and Warwick adds that many vessels now offer
crew international health insurance that is not compliant with Obamacare.
“U.S. crew need to determine if they should supplement this
with a basic U.S. domestic plan to avoid a tax penalty,” Warwick says, adding that
the penalty was two percent of declared income this year and will be two point
five percent next year. “Depending on salary and age, it may be cheaper to pay
the penalty. Most international plans cover worldwide, including [the] home
country, but U.S. crew need to know if it’s ACA compliant.”
Yet, even if you’re not U.S. crew, health coverage in the
U.S. is something you should really consider.
“One can exclude U.S./Canada from some international
policies, which does keep the rate down, but yacht itineraries change and who
can predict where they are going to be?” says Warwick.
This is especially true if you’ll be spending time in the
Caribbean. According to Warwick, if a serious injury occurs in the Caribbean
that requires a medical evacuation, you’ll likely be brought to Florida in the
U.S. She herself experienced this firsthand as a freelancer traveling to
Jamaica, where she got into a serious car accident. While she had taken travel
insurance to Jamaica, she wasn’t eligible for insurance in the U.S. The Broward
General Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, required a $50,000 deposit before
she could be medically airlifted to the U.S., and Quantas wouldn’t let her on a
flight before being stabilized, at which point her bills were about $180,000.
“Three people didn’t make it in that accident but may have
if they had access to healthcare in the U.S.,” she says, adding that the U.S.
is a place you do not want to be compromised by lack of insurance. “For all the
people who tell me they’ll just go home if something happens to them, when
you’re in that ambulance they’re not taking you to the airport!”
When considering your yacht’s health insurance plan or
shopping around for your own, think wisely, carefully, and practically. Ask
yourself how much the deductible and excess is and who pays it in the event of
a claim. Review the medical limits. Don’t jump into the cheapest plan — find
the one that best suits your needs.