U.S. crew can find insurance under ACA

Mar 3, 2015 by Guest Writer

There is a lot of confusion and concern with the ever-changing health insurance market and how it applies to crew members.

Crew members live a nomadic lifestyle and enrolling in a traditional U.S. domestic health insurance plan does not provide meaningful coverage for treatment received in places like Monaco or the Bahamas.

There are also big questions of eligibility given that U.S. crew are supposed to be a resident of a U.S. state. According to what GeoBlue sees in our individual membership numbers, about three quarters of crew are non-U.S. citizens who have indicated their home country as “non-US”.

For foreign crew not substantially present or paying U.S. taxes, a shared responsibility payment (tax penalty) does not apply. That is good news.

The Affordable Care Act pertains to U.S. crew or foreign crew who are substantially present in the U.S. and pay U.S. taxes. Crew members outside of the U.S. for 330 days or more in a 12-month period meet the definition for an individual expat and, in turn, are deemed to have met the individual mandate under the law (no tax penalty would apply).

U.S. crew stateside for more than 35 days have three clear choices:

  1. Buy domestic health insurance and face benefit headaches and claim problems abroad.
  2. Buy domestic coverage and supplement it with overseas “top up” coverage. GeoBlue has a new plan called GeoBlue Xplorer Select that does exactly that. A 27-year-old would pay  $100 a month for a plan with 100 percent coverage abroad, subject to a $1,000 deductible (deductible waived for office visits and prescriptions).
  3. Retain your global health coverage, and pay the shared responsibility payment. The penalty may be less than purchasing two policies. It’s important to run the premium and out-of-pocket numbers by looking at each scenario.

Another important development to consider: the CR Omnibus Bill was written into law on Dec. 16 and included legislation that attempted to redefine an expatriate as someone living six months or more away from home. This is much broader language than the existing 330 days abroad definition for individuals purchasing coverage. The bill comes into law in July 2015 and GeoBlue is assessing the applicability of the law for crew members.

Jill Cappelli is the eastern regional sales manager of individual products for GeoBlue, previously HTH Worldwide, in Pennsylvania. Contact her at jcappelli@geo-blue.com. Comments on this column are welcome at editorial@the-triton.com.