Health Insurance for Aviation Professionals
September 23, 2021
The aviation industry in Hong Kong and Asia has experienced what has been an incredibly challenging year; furthermore, the economy has resulted in companies tightening costs and restructuring benefits for all employees, including pilots and aircrew.
While employee benefits may differ because of the airline or seniority in the company, nowadays even basic plans don’t meet all staff expectations and requirements. The aviation industry’s outlook remains uncertain and with the recent COVID-19 outbreak, being covered in all respects is increasingly more important.
At Alea we have been advising pilots, cabin crews and families on health insurance for years, and have developed a unique knowledge of their expectations and needs.
If you are a pilot, cabin crew or spouse, whether expat or local, here is a practical guide to better understand your medical benefits, and ensure you and your family are well covered.
1. Why Medical Benefits for Pilots Can Be Insufficient
While airlines have traditionally offered quality benefits for employees like pilots and cabin crew, cost-cutting has often led to less competitive or insufficient health coverage. Typical gaps in airline health insurance include sub-limits that are easily reached and restrictions on panel networks.
Our experience shows that another limitation in airline pilots’ health insurance is the absence of portability (aka guarantee of conversion).
What is portability? It means that you can keep your health insurance (at your own cost) if you change employer, or if you leave and remain temporarily unemployed. It basically ensures continuity for you and your family, and peace of mind.
Portability of health insurance is important because it exempts you from going through new underwriting with a new insurer. Indeed, if you, your spouse or children have any pre-existing conditions, you will unfortunately face exclusions, higher premiums or may not be insurable.
These are key reasons why people get top-up insurance.
2. What’s a top-up and why people get them
A top-up plan (or top-up insurance) covers the deficiencies of your employer-provided health insurance or any other medical insurance you may have. It is a full individual health insurance coverage that adds up to existing health insurance.
➜ Advantage #1: with a top-up plan, you increase your coverage limits for high ticket items, such as surgery and cancer treatments (which in Hong Kong routinely cost HKD1.5 to 2 million). Indeed Hong Kong has the second most expensive private healthcare sector in the world, so this matters.
➜ Advantage #2: with a top-up plan, you have total freedom of choice of your providers. You won’t be penalized if you go outside the panel network.
➜ Advantage #3: if you move to another country, you keep your coverage. And you can keep your top-up for the rest of your life. Remember, it’s key to lock-in a plan while still healthy. Wondering if your insurance plan covers COVID-19? Read our guide.
3. My situation may change... what happens if I lose my job, move abroad or retire?
In Hong Kong, there is no obligation for employers to provide health insurance to their employees. If you leave or lose your job, you usually automatically lose your health coverage.
This is why many pilots get top-up insurance early on for them and their family, while they are employed.
If you plan to leave or have left your airline job and you (or one of your dependents) have pre-existing conditions, you will need to go through new underwriting with a new insurer.
In that case again, you and your family may face exclusions, higher premiums or may not be insurable.
4. Health insurance for pilots, cabin crew & families: ALC Flying Colours
Acknowledging the specific needs of pilots and cabin crews (expats and locals), the insurance provider ALC has designed a special plan for them and their families: ALC Flying Colours.
In the international health insurance landscape, a rather rare benefit of the ALC Flying Colours plan is that you/your family’s pre-existing conditions will be covered.
Other key advantages of this plan include:
➜ 100% cover for high ticket items like cancer treatment & others.
➜ Flexible options and benefits (Classic, Premier and Platinum).
➜ Worldwide cover wherever you relocate (UK, Australia, Canada etc.)
➜ Full portability.
➜ Lifetime renewability: once you have it, you are grandfathered in.
Note that the pilot him/herself must be on the scheme for dependents to enroll, and all family members must have the same benefits.
Do you have a pilot license but do not fly the line (simulator instructor)? As long as you have a commercial pilot license then ALC Flying Colours can still cover you and your family.
5. I have NO pre-existing condition: any other options?
While the ALC Flying Colours plan is a good option if you or your family have pre-existing conditions, there are many other international health insurance options on the market if you and/or your family do not have any pre-existing health condition.
The Alea team can look into other medical insurance plans available on the market, explain their strengths and weaknesses and help you find the right one within your budget.
Alea works with 18+ major health insurance providers including April, Axa, Bupa, Cigna, Morgan Price, Now Health and more. We have advised pilots and families on a number of them.
An advisor will be in touch to answer all your questions!
This article was independently written by Alea and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.