'Below Deck:' Does the Crew Receive Health Insurance?

From Ashton Pienaar’s near-death experience on Below Deck to crew members falling ill with the flu. How do crew members pay for health-related expenses? And do crew members receive health insurance while working on yachts?

Like some employees, a comprehensive medical package is often offered as a benefit of employment. But the yachting industry operates a little differently and not all yacht companies and owners offer the same benefits.

Even though crew members must prove they are physically healthy enough to work, accidents and illness are not always preventable. So what should every crew member consider before they embark upon their next charter?

The yacht owner doesn’t necessarily provide coverage

Many crew members may think they are completely or partially covered by the yacht owner’s insurance plan, Yachting Pages reports. Unless the yacht owner tells you specifically there is a separate group health plan, obtain your own individual coverage. Also, the owner’s Protection and Indemnity (P&I) insurance isn’t going to provide coverage either.

Even if the yacht owner provides coverage, securing an individual plan is typically in the crew member’s best interest, Dockwalk reports. “Unfortunately, people buy the cheapest [plan], and then find out it doesn’t pay out,” Clive Evans, chairman, and founder of Yachting Financial Solutions told Dockwalk. “What’s the point in paying for something that won’t actually pay out if something happens? It’s a complete waste of money.”

Also, “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,” Jill Capelli from GeoBlue added.

Make sure you have U.S. and global coverage

With the number of complicated changes to U.S. healthcare policies, U.S. crew members should carefully consider which approach is ultimately the best. “U.S. crew need to determine if they should supplement this with a basic U.S. domestic plan to avoid a tax penalty,” Anita Warwick of Seven Seas Health told Dockwalk.

She adds that the 2% penalty this year and will hike to 2.5% 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.”

Since most charters are not in the U.S., crew members must ensure coverage extends to other countries. “Crew also need to make sure they have access to quality care around the globe with a global PPO network,” Capelli said. “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.”

How to evaluate plans?

Captains may often select a group health plan for their crew. Yachting Pages suggests captains take both crew and owner needs into consideration when looking for the right plan.

Also, the charter length and location is important when selecting the right coverage. Make sure travel zones are covered before purchasing any plans. Of course, ask for recommendations and referrals and determine how much you can cover.

This means you should determine if your coverage should include every cough and sniffle or will the plan just cover big injuries or illnesses?

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