It is often said that, “The only constant in life is change.” This statement could not be more appropriate with the changes that are happening regarding health insurance and the superyacht industry. Between Health Care Reform and the Maritime Labour Convention , 2006 (MLC) coming into effect soon, now is the time for yacht captains and crew to learn about regulatory changes taking place and how they can best protect themselves.
Mark Bononi, MHG Insurance Brokers’ Yacht Division Director, is featured in this month’s issue of Dockwalk, the premier magazine for superyacht captains and crew. He speaks candidly about this specific issue and offers pertinent advice for those in the industry. For starters, let us begin with the MLC, which will be going into effect on August 20, 2013. If you have assumed the MLC will make the vessel owner responsible to take care of all your health and medical insurance needs, this is simply not the case.
The MLC is basically designed as a minimum standard for the commercial shipping world and does not mean individual yacht crewmembers will be adequately protected. Bononi shares that the MLC going into effect really does not change much regarding coverage. He explains that the “MLC states that each vessel owner is liable for crew medical costs.” However, the MLC does not spell this out clearly, stating the yacht owner must provide “financial security” to cover death, repatriation or long-term disability costs. Bononi then asks, how will this “financial security” be proven? It will most likely be subject to interpretation by each individual port state inspector. Proof might come in the form of providing health insurance, or having money in an escrow account, or in another manner…either way, it is not clearly stated.
In addition, many insurance policies offered by a yacht owner do not include all-encompassing health care for yacht crewmembers. Bononi stresses the point that this is where the responsibility ultimately falls on the crewmember to make sure their medical and health insurance needs are met, and how a separate medical policy can offer added protection and peace of mind. When it comes to Health Care Reform, Americans who work as yacht crewmembers are currently playing the waiting game. Do not assume that not residing in the U.S. the majority of the year removes your requirement to pay for health insurance or be subject to a tax. Currently, the rules around residency and time periods for residing outside of the U.S. are vague at best. This makes it difficult for yacht crewmembers to plan for their health insurance needs.
Staying in contact with an experienced yacht insurance broker, such as MHG, is imperative, as they will keep abreast of all regulatory changes that are happening regarding the MLC and Health Care Reform. Bononi states that it really boils down to each individual crew member getting adequate coverage for themselves that meets their specific needs, even if this comes in the form of an additional policy over what the yacht owner provides.
His other important piece of advice is not to wait: “Health insurance only gets more expensive the older you get, so getting on board early with a comprehensive health policy can help with future costs.” Bononi’s full interview is available in the August issue of Dockwalk magazine.
If you are a yacht crewmember seeking to learn more about health insurance options available to you, call MHG today and let a skilled representative explain more regarding the MLC and Health Care Reform. MHG Insurance can also provide you with numerous quotes from top-rated insurance companies who offer policies that meet your budget and individual needs. Call MHG today at 954-828-1819 or learn more by visiting mhginsurance.com