New affordable mariners’ health insurance

Imagine this: A major medical plan for mariners that is affordable, portable, available as a group product, and simple to apply for. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, several tug-and-barge operators are using this plan, one that has been endorsed by the U.S. Sailing Association and The American Sail Training Association.

I asked my colleague Rick Bagnall who developed the program a few questions about the plan.

Should a professional mariner pay full price for their health insurance? “No, not if you work on a vessel. U.S. vessels are subject to the Jones Act as well as admiralty law, which will provide maintenance, cure and wages coverage for injured or ill crew. There is no need to have duplicate coverage while ‘in service of the vessel.’ We find coverage premiums can drop 25 to 75 percent below domestic health premiums. This is group coverage with five or more crew.”

How do I find out if my physician or hospital accepts this insurance? “If a physician or hospital accepts Aetna insurance, they will accept this plan.”

Why are premiums so low? “Mariners travel in and out of U.S. waters. This means they will need coverage both domestically and abroad, where health care is less expensive. This crew health insurance dovetails with maintenance and cure rather than doubling up on coverage. This means paying only for the coverage you need.”

Federal health care reform mandates health insurance coverage for all employees by 2014. Why is it important to look into crew health insurance benefits now? “It’s important to establish marine industry experience for rate stabilization, as opposed to setting the bar on the current domestic rates and increases for your industry/community.”

Does this program follow all state and federal mandates? “Yes.”

Domestic non-crew health insurance premiums have increased 20 to 70 percent for the past several years. How much have premiums gone up for this program? “We are seeing between zero to 10 percent premium increases a year. Virtually no one has left this plan for another.”

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