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June 2006 Vol. 32, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Do You Have the Right Dive Insurance?

needs differ and so do policies

from the June, 2006 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Several recent incidents got us thinking about dive accident insurance. The first occurred last August when a UK diverís insurance carrier declined payment of nearly $70,000 for DCS treatment because he had exceeded his policyís depth limit. He was only able to leave Egypt after paying much of the local bill himself. Then early this year ten recompression facilities for several months refused to accept DANís ďreasonable and customaryĒ payments, instead presenting the stricken diver with the bill.

Some policies restrict coverage to 130
feet. While you may never expect to dive
that deep, you may inadvertently.

Dive injuries and related costs can run into staggering numbers. Last year, a 10-year-old Discover Scuba student in Grand Cayman, was bitten on the arm by a moray eel while diving the Sand Bar. The tab for medical attention, a private Leerjet back to the States and physical therapy approached $100,000. The family, despite having a dive insurance policy, had to put the money up front.

Points to Consider When Buying Coverage

Prudent divers purchase secondary dive accident policies to cover claims their primary policies donít cover.

To assess your primary coverage, inquire about diverelated hyperbaric chamber treatment and emergency evacuation, both at home and abroad. You may indeed find that you are covered for dive accidents, including recompression treatments and air evacuation. However, foreign facilities may want payment up front, or at least require prior authorization from your insurance company, before you are admitted to or discharged from the hospital, or even allowed to leave the country.

Good primary insurance is important, because most dive accident insurance policies are secondary and may not cover all expenses, particularly rehabilitation. Many primary health insurers donít advance or preauthorize payment. Dive insurance policies, however, often provide for assurances that are acceptable in most foreign and domestic locations. Otherwise, youíll need credit cards with high limits.

Some policies, especially the least expensive, have a depth restriction, commonly 130 feet. While you may never expect to dive this deep, if youíre rescuing a buddy, chasing a dropped camera, being caught in a downcurrent, or becoming impaired by an accident, you may unexpectedly drop below 130 feet. A policy without depth limits eliminates wrangling over your ďrealĒ dive plan or ďintent.Ē

All dive accident policies require care to be first prescribed by a medical professional, documented in an itemized bill, reported to the insurer in a timely manner and other important details. Youíll need to follow your policy rules to ensure coverage, not always an easy task in remote areas.

Finally, all comprehensive scuba accident policies provide trip cancellation and interruption benefits if a medical condition precludes scuba. But, youíll need travel insurance if you want broader coverage againstairline cancellation, travel agency problems, and natural disasters. And most donít insure against nondiving accidents, such as getting a foot crushed when a tank falls.

The six biggest providers are: DAN, PADI, NAUI, DiveSafe, DiveAssure and Diverís Security Insurance (DSI). All but DiveAssure are secondary. While secondary insurers may provide coverage on the spot, they will turn to your primary carrier to cover medical costs up to itís policy limits. So, when you consider the limits of your insurance, add together both the benefits of your primary policy and your seconday policy. It may be that a dive policy with a lower limit suits you just fine.


DAN has more than 200,000 paid members to whom they offer insurance. DAN America offers three plans: Standard ($54/yr), Master ($64/yr) and Preferred ($99/yr), providing dive accident medical coverage up to $45,000, $125,000 and $250,000, respectively. The DAN membership fee and access to expert in-house medical information services are included.

They provide up to $100,000 evacuation and repatriation benefits, including medical services and transportation for injuries incurred at least 50 miles from home. Evacuation and travel must be coordinated in advance through TravelAssist, which will make arrangements and provide a Letter of Assurance of payment, or advance up to $5,000.

Ancillary TravelAssist benefits include monitoring the injured diver, repatriation of traveling companions and other services.

The Preferred Plan adds nondiving medical coverage for accidents occurring outside the home country and trip cancellation/interruption coverage when an insuredís ability to dive becomes limited due to sickness or injury.

To control costs, DAN refers DCI cases requiring hyperbaric treatment to a member of its Diving Preferred Provider Network, as long as it doesnít put the diver at risk.


PADI offers a range of dive-related insurance to PADI certified divers through Vicencia & Buckley Insurance Services. PADI diver protection plans include Silver ($54/ yr), Gold ($75/yr) and Platinum ($99/yr). The plans provide $50,000, $100,000 and $275,000 of dive accident coverage, respectively.

PADI plans incorporate dive-related death and disability benefits, and provide optional non-diving accidental death and dismemberment coverage. All dive accident medical coverage is per incident, rather than the more restrictive lifetime maximum offered by some other insurers. However, how many incidents does a diver have?

Assist America rescue and evacuation benefits are provided when the diver and immediate family members are more than 100 miles from home. Evacuation, repatriation and treatment related to diving and non-diving emergencies must be arranged by the agency. Assist America guarantees hospital admission for divers outside the USA. The Gold and Platinum plans provide medical and travel benefits for accident-related emergencies of any nature and dive trip cancellation and interruption benefits to divers and their immediate family. These may already be covered in your primary policy and trip insurance.


NAUI makes its three policies available to every diver: Standard Diver Plan ($30/yr); Deluxe Dive and Travel Individual Plan ($60/yr); and Deluxe Dive and Travel Family Plan ($90/yr). After a $250 deductible, these policies provide medical dive accident coverage of up to $50,000, $300,000 and $500,000.

The two top-tier plans also provide medical benefits for non-diving accidents up to $10,000. After a deductible of $250, they also cover up to $10,000/$5,000 in diving vacation cancellation/interruption expenses. There are no distance restriction for covered diving accidents. For non-diving accidents on a covered diving vacation one must be outside his primary residence country or more than 50 miles from his primary residence.


A newer player, DiveSafe, Inc., administered by Willis Recreational Dive Programs, offers coverage to certified members of SDI, TDI, ERDI, IANTD, YMCA, NASE, WASI, ACUC, SSI and PDIC. The considerable appeal of DiveSafe is simplicity. It sells only a single policy ($60/year) with no depth limit or exclusions for tech diving, deductibles, options or preapprovals. The maximum lifetime limit is $100,000 for dive accidents.

The plan has dive vacation cancellation or interruption coverage. The policy includes emergency medical evacuation and repatriation benefits up to policy limits. DiveSafe will assist the injured diver to arrange for hospital admittance/discharge deposits or other advances for medical services and can pre-authorize/guaranted payments once an incident report is received. If you sustain a nondiving accident, injury or illness, youíre on your own.


The newest insurer, DiveAssure offers Gold ($75/yr), Platinum ($115/yr) and Diamond (starting at $155/yr) plans. The plans are open to all certified divers and dive students. None have depth or mixed gas restrictions.

If you want to be heavily protected against medical costs, these provide $250,000, $500,000 and $1,000,000 of dive accident coverage, per incident, respectively. All cover medical rescue and evacuation expenses following a diving accident.

The top two plans cover nondiving-related accidents and medical expenses incurred during a diving vacation with the same limits. That might be important for someone whose primary insurance doesnít cover accidents outside the U.S. Medicare is an example. If a hospital demands a cash deposit or settlement prior to leaving, AIGAssist will advance on-site medical expenses.

The Diamond policy provides comprehensive dive vacation cancellation and interruption benefits. Unlike the other plans, the insured can tailor this coverage, and purchase $1500/$3000/$5000 of cancellation and $2250/$4500/$7500 of interruption protection. And they go beyond diving problems. Uniquely, they cover sicksickness, injury or death of a family member or traveling companion; weather or natural disaster; even being required to serve on jury duty or being delayed due to a traffic accident en route to your departure.


Diverís Security Insurance, a division of Capital Investors Life Insurance Company, was formed by divers. Policy costs vary by coverage and a five percent deductible applies to all charges. You must have a primary health care plan.

DiveSafe -
Dive Assure -

Unlike other policies, DSI offers a menu of benefits. Class A ($25/yr) covers chamber charges and related physicianís services and supplies (certain depth and gas restrictions apply); Class B ($10/yr) covers all other injuries sustained while diving or snorkeling; Class C ($5/yr) only covers ambulance services, air included, to the nearest emergency facility and Class D ($20/yr) covers other watersports. Each Class provides a scanty $15,000 in benefits.

Which is best?

If a plan fails to cover dive injuries other than DCI, or has depth restrictions, it isnít suitable. If you donít have primary insurance, maximum medical limits of $50,000 or less are inadequate. Beyond this, the policies serve different needs and not all are suitable for everyone.

For example, if you dive frequently you may prefer coverage per occurrence rather than a restrictive lifetime maximum basis. Look at PADI, DiveAssure and NAUI v DAN Standard and Master and DiveSafe.

If you use Nitrox or other gas mixtures, you will want a policy without gas restrictions. Other than DSI, all policies cover you.

If you want traditional travel insurance benefits, consider the upgraded DiveAssure Diamond plan. If you only dive locally, you donít need trip interruption coverage, so look to more basic plans. However, if you travel to distant venues and want generous benefits, consider DiveAssure Gold and Platinum and DSI upgraded DiveAssure Diamond.

If you have a medical condition that could result in trip cancellation, consider DAN Preferred, one of the NAUI Deluxe Dive and Travel Individual Plans, and upgraded DiveAssure Diamond.

Finally, keep in mind that if youíre injured, youíre dealing with hard-nosed insurance agencies, not dive buddies. Donít have a naive expectation that a benevolent DAN or PADI or NAUI will treat you like family. They wonít. This is the insurance business. We have seen cases where injured divers wrangle with their dive insurance companies for months, eventually learning that what they thought was covered, wasnít. They hadnít read the fine print. All the more reason to have a solid primary medical insurance policy.

Ė Doc Vikingo

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