Superyacht crew insurance has barely changed in a decade, despite critical shifts in social policy. “Obamacare” in the United States and critical changes to French Social Security regulations have forced crew insurance brokers to work hard to find updated solutions that work.
Based in Florida, the international insurance brokers SGRM, in association with WYCC Luxembourg, have partnered to develop industry leading global health insurance with US coverage. They are also able to offer the only private plan that works directly with French social security’s new requirements.
AZURE for US healthcare
Rolled out earlier this year, AZURE health insurance is tailored specifically for superyacht crew. Based on an existing plan that covers 1.5 million maritime workers in the cruise, shipping, offshore oil & gas industries, AZURE provides healthcare worldwide and in the US for employees of non-US corporate entities—superyacht management companies that employ crew.
“This plan offers huge coverage across the United States, with 4,700 hospitals and 724,000 healthcare professionals via the Aetna Global Network, as well as via CVS pharmacies” says Vincent Huens de Brouwer, the France-based director of SGRM – International Insurance Brokers.
Key to AZURE’s success is direct-billing: the insured don’t have to pay first and get reimbursed; the bill is sent from the provider directly to the insurance company, as long as they stay within the network. “It’s a very convenient set-up for our customers,” Huens de Brouwer says.
Since its launch, AZURE has proved extremely popular among yacht management teams across Europe, with yachts realizing savings through lower costs and benefits of the AZURE plan.
SGRM is positioning itself for the future of healthcare in the US after the scheduled end of “Obamacare” when the insurance market will become more flexible and open for business.
The French Package
France moved this year to apply the Maritime Labour Convention’s requirements for social protection for seafarers. They were the first country to do so, and others will follow.
It’s caused a headache for owners, yacht managers and crew. Crew now need not just medical insurance, repatriation, loss of life and 16-weeks disability income, but much wider social security coverage including maternity cover and old-age pensions.
It’s the foundation of the MLC’s promotion of seafarers’ rights. But it has meant that every business employing crew within France now needs to prove their crew are covered.
Some crew are employed under a flag that has a bilateral agreement with France (like the US or UK). But most crew, as with those employed under contracts in the Cayman Islands, Marshall Islands and others must now show they are contributing to French social security (in order that they can then claim).
But in a sign they recognize the need for flexibility, France has allowed seafarers to join a private social security scheme.
In a prompt and proactive move, SGRM in association with WYCC have launched the market’s first private, French social-security approved contribution plan called The French Package. The plan includes medical care, sickness, injury and disability benefits, life insurance, and family, maternity and old-age benefits. The French law does not require the plan to propose unemployment benefits.
“As SGRM, we are very happy to be working in partnership with WYCC on this,” Huens de Brouwer says. “WYCC have been working with ENIM (France’s social security department covering seafarers) for over a decade and understand the intricacies of the French social security system very well. Now we can offer a product that answers MLC requirements, French requirements and owner concerns in a single, comprehensive and affordable package.”
While France’s decision to implement a non-compulsory part of the Convention has caught the industry by surprise, it should perhaps not be such a surprise that a country with a revolutionary social democratic culture has gone first past the post to provide state-backed security for seafarers.
“It won’t be port state control that causes a problem for employers of superyacht crew; it will be the courts, when a crewmember claims for lack of disability income or maternity,” de Brouwer says. “And these labour court judges in France, we can imagine, will not look kindly on employers who own superyachts but won’t offer basic social security to their employees.”
So the message is: Comply with French social security, either through ENIM itself or with a private solution like WYCC’s French Package.