Think of dive insurance as your back-up dive rig, like an invisible bail-out bottle tucked in its tank pouch, out of sight but always within easy reach in case you need it. Do most scuba divers carry dive insurance? If they don’t, they should, because it can be some of the cheapest safety gear around, especially when you consider how much money will be saved if some bad diving joo-joo ever hits the proverbial fan.
Scuba divers undergo intensive training to avoid having something go wrong under water, so we’re not always inclined to admit that sometimes things do go wrong. And when they do, injuries often require transportation and medical coordination and recompression treatment that can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, and this often has to be paid up front, especially if you find yourself in a foreign dive locale. Hence, the need for dive insurance.
The key to dive insurance is finding the right plan that supports your diving lifestyle. Dive insurance keeps adjusting, so you must consider different dive policies in terms of support, coverage, accessibility and the ability to accommodate your needs in the event of an accident. Most companies offer two to three tiers of insurance coverage with different combinations of medical and dive trip coverage.
Another big concern should be how your dive insurance interfaces with your medical insurance. Insurance plans require that care be given by a medical professional with services itemized on a bill. So even though you are on the other side of the world, you need to be careful to stay within the parameters of your plan if you expect to receive compensation.
How to Decide?
In choosing dive insurance, the first thing to do is determine how much you are willing to risk. As a diver you are trained to preplan before you hit the water; the same should apply to your dive insurance.
Take a long look at the fine print of a dive policy and also ask around; sooner or later you will find someone who has been bent and they will be very forthright about the unexpected shortcomings or adaptability of their insurance coverage. For example, on a recent post in a dive chat room, a diver compared two separate dive insurance response times when an event injured several divers on a charter. The divers with one insurance company got immediate medical care, but an hour later the divers with the other company were still on the phone repeatedly describing the event and deliberating with the agent over whether it was covered. This isn’t the time for these kinds of phone debates. You need to be able to know exactly what is covered, what the treatment procedure is, and the possible delays and limits to care if you are in a foreign locale. So you need to read the fine print and research the plan before you dive the plan.
Three Dive Insurance Choices
Doing an internet check, we found three companies that offer dive insurance plans. Other plans do exist, but they tend to cater to professional divers. These three plans, on the other hand, are tailored more for the average recreational diver.
Divers Alert Network (DAN)
Founded in 1980, DAN is a non-profit medical and research organization dedicated to the health and safety of scuba divers. DAN began the first 24-hour hotline to assist divers who had medical questions and offers three plans that cover almost every type of dive accident. In an informal survey, DAN was praised for its affordable coverage and great response time (most divers surveyed had purchased DAN’s Preferred Plan because the medical benefits are per occurrence rather than a lifetime max). DAN covers vacation losses as well as equipment damage, and also offers supplemental travel and equipment protection plans in addition to their dive accident plans for divers who want more coverage for dive travel.
(You must be a DAN member to be eligible to purchase DAN dive accident insurance.)
• Individual membership: $35 a year (includes travel assist, a subscription to Alert Diver magazine and other benefits).
• Family membership: $55 a year (includes eligible family members, including spouse. Cohabitators also qualify for the family membership).
DAN Dive Accident Insurance Plans:
• Standard Plan ($45,000 lifetime max): $30 a year
• Master Plan ($125,000 lifetime max): $40 a year
• Preferred Plan ($250,000 per occurrence): $75 a year
Notes: The Standard Plan does not include permanent or total disability coverage, extra transportation, extra accommodations, lost diving equipment, medical non-dive equipment coverage or vacation cancellation or interruption insurance.
The Master and Preferred Plans both offer varying limits on the above-mentioned items. For example, the Preferred Plan offers $15,000 for accidental death, $2,000 for extra transportation, $3,000 for extra accommodation, $10,000 for non-dive accident medical coverage (lifetime maximum) and $10,000 and $5,000, respectively, for diving vacation cancellation and interruption due to injury or illness before or after departure.
DAN insurance will function as primary coverage in the event you do not have health insurance coverage. You can find the side-by-side comparison of DAN’s plan benefits coverage and limits at www.diversalertnetwork.org/insurance/compare.asp.
DiveAssure has been offering dive accident insurance since 2003. DiveAssure acts as primary insurance, meaning there will be no delay in help or coverage. DiveAssure works in partnership with Duke University so medical assistance is available 24/7 from experts in dive medicine. DiveAssure also has a partnership with Travel Guard, which offers 24/7 services and assistance with travel problems, and there are no gas or depth restrictions so it is a great program for technical divers.
DiveAssure Insurance Plans:
As opposed to the flat-rate plans offered by DAN and DSI, DiveAssure’s plan prices vary widely, based on the plan you choose, as well as on your age, the state you live in, whether or not you’re looking for death or disability coverage and/or trip cancellation or interruption coverage.
With all these variables it’s difficult to run a pricing guide like with flat-rate plans. So suffice it to say that DiveAssure plans start at around $89 and go up from there, based on what kind and how much coverage you want.
In a nutshell, DiveAssure offers three plans; the Gold Plan (basic diving accident protection), the Platinum Plan (enhanced diving accident protection with basic trip protection), and the Diamond Plan (the most prestigious program that includes death or disability coverage plus trip cancellation. It also includes Duke physician consultation, evacuation supervision, medical oversight of diving accident treatment and more).
Go to www.diveassure.com/new/usa/diveassure_programs.html for more information on each policy and their prices as they relate to your personal situation.
Divers Security Insurance
Divers Security Insurance (DSI) was “created by divers for divers” through Security National Life in 1987. This insurance package offers a mix and match approach where divers create their own coverage package. However, this is strictly secondary insurance coverage—you must already have primary health insurance coverage to qualify for a DSI plan.
DSI Insurance Plans:
• Plan A: $25 a year (covers decompression treatment).
• Plan B: $10 a year (covers diving and snorkeling activities).
• Plan C: $ 5 a year (covers ambulance and evacuation).
• Combined Plan: $40 a year.
Notes: There are no membership fees; however, there is a $3 service fee for online and phone purchases. You can sign up for any single item as long as it meets the $25 minimum, so as a diver, for example, you can choose only Plan A to cover decompression treatment. The deductible is five percent of the covered charges plus the amount payable by any other coverage. Again, DSI offers secondary coverage only, so it pays only after all your other health and accident coverage.
Insurance is a tricky business, and dive insurance is no exception. There are benefits to each of these programs. If you’re already heavily vested in personal health insurance the addition of DSI’s decompression treatment plan and ambulance/evacuation plan are inexpensive add-ons. If you do a lot of dive traveling and your budget can afford it, DiveAssure offers some really impressive programs that cover just about everything you might think of in a dive accident situation and its aftermath. However, in our book you really can’t beat DAN coverage in general and the Preferred Plan in particular for its relatively inexpensive yet pretty comprehensive per-occurrence coverage.
I’ve been a diving addict since my 14th birthday when my parents took me to the Bahamas and had my first scuba diving experience. I’ve been an active diver ever since but in the last few years my focus shifted on sharing my thoughts and experience on diving gear, writing product reviews and gave up on organizing dive tours.