Navigating the global health insurance maze is no cup oftea. Luckily, the yacht has you covered. Or does it? Not every yacht offers agood health insurance plan — and even if it does, you may be better off withyour own. Read on to find out what you may not know — but should — when itcomes to your health insurance.
1. Your yacht’s healthinsurance may not cover you off the boat.
As Clive Evans, chairman and founder of Yachting FinancialSolutions, puts it, the health insurance package offered by your yacht usually coversyou at work only.
“As soon as you walk down that gangplank, you’re notcovered,” he says. “Does it cover you on holiday? Does it cover you for all thethings yachties like doing? Snowboarding? Skiing? Most of it won’t. Some of itmight, but it depends on how generous your employer is.”
However, Anita Warwick of Seven Seas Health points out thatmore vessels than before provide comprehensive health coverage on and off thevessel. If the yacht is compliant with MLC, 2006, in addition to medicalcoverage, it should also provide dental and disability income protection inaccordance with the flag state.
Note that the vessel is responsible for work-related accidentsand illnesses; there’s often a “crew accident” cover on the vessel’s Protectionand Indemnity policy, says Warwick. This accident coverage is different than healthinsurance. If there is coverage on board, check that it’s primary to theP&I, suggests GeoBlue’s Jill Capelli.
“You also want to read the fine print related to theexclusions,” Capelli says. “Some plans will not cover certain crew activitiessuch as sailboat racing and scuba diving. Another exclusion to pay attention tois ‘alcohol-related injuries,’ which many plans have listed as an exclusion.”
2. Even if the yachtoffers a comprehensive plan, you may still need an individual plan.
Evans is a huge advocate of having your own health insuranceindependent of the boat. Sound expensive? He promises it pays out.
“Unfortunately, people buy the cheapest [plan], and thenfind out it doesn’t pay out,” Evans says. “What’s the point in paying forsomething that won’t actually pay out if something happens? It’s a completewaste of money.”
Think about it — do you plan on staying on your currentyacht forever? The answer is probably no. In which case, investing in anindividual plan may be your best bet, as you can take it with you as you movefrom boat to boat, if you’re between jobs, or if you’re taking time off.
“With an individual plan, you enjoy unique portability anddo not have to deal with new qualifying periods related to certain benefitssuch as preventative care of coverage for preexisting medical conditions,” saysCapelli.
Warwick adds that it’s important to get insurance whilehealthy and before pre-existing conditions may result in a rate increase or,worst case, denial.
3. Widespread geographicalcoverage is critical.
When researching a policy and policyholder, Capelli adviseslooking at coverage and limits within your home country as home coverage isimportant if you end up home for the holidays or take a temporary leave fromyachting.
“Crew also need to make sure they have access to qualitycare around the globe with a global PPO network,” she adds, emphasizing theimportance of reliable inpatient and outpatient coverage. “Whether [you’re]yachting in the Galapagos Islands or the Mediterranean, be sure the insurancecarrier can access the best care no matter where they are in the world.”
As international travelers, having the support of aspecialty company that can connect you to the best healthcare available in manydestinations is critical for crew. According to Capelli, a global plan cancoordinate and pay to safely evacuate a crewmember to a leading center ofexcellence if local care is not reliable.
4. Coverage in theU.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 healthinsurance plan. As Capelli points out, crew policies now have a limit for timespent within the United States, and Warwick adds that many vessels now offercrew international health insurance that is not compliant with Obamacare.
“U.S. crew need to determine if they should supplement thiswith a basic U.S. domestic plan to avoid a tax penalty,” Warwick says, adding thatthe penalty was two percent of declared income this year and will be two pointfive percent next year. “Depending on salary and age, it may be cheaper to paythe penalty. Most international plans cover worldwide, including [the] homecountry, but U.S. crew need to know if it’s ACA compliant.”
Yet, even if you’re not U.S. crew, health coverage in theU.S. is something you should really consider.
“One can exclude U.S./Canada from some internationalpolicies, which does keep the rate down, but yacht itineraries change and whocan predict where they are going to be?” says Warwick.
This is especially true if you’ll be spending time in theCaribbean. According to Warwick, if a serious injury occurs in the Caribbeanthat requires a medical evacuation, you’ll likely be brought to Florida in theU.S. She herself experienced this firsthand as a freelancer traveling toJamaica, where she got into a serious car accident. While she had taken travelinsurance to Jamaica, she wasn’t eligible for insurance in the U.S. The BrowardGeneral Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, required a $50,000 deposit beforeshe could be medically airlifted to the U.S., and Quantas wouldn’t let her on aflight before being stabilized, at which point her bills were about $180,000.
“Three people didn’t make it in that accident but may haveif 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 thepeople who tell me they’ll just go home if something happens to them, whenyou’re in that ambulance they’re not taking you to the airport!”
When considering your yacht’s health insurance plan orshopping around for your own, think wisely, carefully, and practically. Askyourself how much the deductible and excess is and who pays it in the event ofa claim. Review the medical limits. Don’t jump into the cheapest plan — findthe one that best suits your needs.