“In 2014, does it still make sense for P&I Clubs to underwrite routine health and accident claims?” asks Robert Johnston, head of the crew medical and personal accident insurance specialist Crewsure. “We are advised that this year, a number of Owners and their brokers are exploring buying low level healthcare insurance, which poses an interesting question for our sector.”
Commenting on the heightened atmosphere of the P&I renewal season, Mr Johnston added, “Clubs have inherited the task of dealing with seafarers who need medical treatment. Yet they are not healthcare insurers - they are ill equipped to provide 24/7 no fault medical plans or to negotiate standard fees with hospitals, and so for many years they have been forced to battle rising health bills.
“Why not take this everyday expense away from them? Why not agree a level of deductible that the Club is comfortable with and then insure the claims arising within the deductible with a specialist healthcare insurer, and thereby provide benefits to crew, which is the approach to healthcare enshrined in MLC2006?
Johnston believes that the industry should consider a holistic approach. “The timing is right to review the manner in which crew medical welfare is insured. Does it make commercial sense to continue to look to the Mutual Clubs to underwrite routine expenses that clearly they would prefer to avoid, or is it time for Shipowners to embrace the spirit of MLC and purchase Benefits' policies for all their staff, rather than see them as claimants under their Employers' liability policies?”
It is well known that today’s global seafarer population is getting older and more sedentary, the abundance of paperwork is putting untold stresses on senior officers and the general level of expectation from healthcare services increases year on year.
Johnston Explained, “Mutual Clubs are starting to see the consequences as a result. With a marked increase in the overall costs of routine crew claims, many Clubs are now trying to distance themselves from this extra expense by increasing the standard crew claim deductible. In the case of one major Club, the minimum deductible applicable to crew exceeds the minimum deductible applicable to cargo. The burden of every day crew medical and accident claims is increasing markedly.”
Robert Johnston is Managing Director of Crewsure, a company which has developed a 'no fault' insurance policy providing a benefit to seafarers in the manner in which employers provide insurance to shoreside employees as a standard contractual entitlement. He is committed to the tenets of the Maritime Labour Convention and believes that these can best be served by a collaborative approach with the industry.