Thought this an interesting way to advertise health insurance to those who surf; direct-marketed to me on MySpace. So I curiously clicked, and found the Platinum Kaiser Plan is just $195.00 a month (!), for an average Hawaii surfer, who might like swimming with sharks (I’m assuming the sharks in the ocean, not the sharks in the medical insurance industry).
Actually, it is the same story for many shark attack victims – if they’re lucky they deal with a deductible, but a large number who have no coverage are ill-prepared to experience the second stage of the feeding frenzy: bill collectors coming after them for hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses. The helicopter ride alone can cost nearly $10,000 (depending on location/remoteness and many plans do not cover medical evacuations). And typical policies don’t often cover needed prosthetics either (a cause Bethany Hamilton has championed – and a bill mandating coverage is nearing passage). It doesn’t have to be a shark attack obviously, surfers get themselves in many other predicaments: from reef to the head to close encounters with a donkey on a longboard. And we need efficient, specific surfer coverage, because it’s not like a car accident – there is no personal info exchanged at the scene, no 1-800 numbers to call. When you’re injured surfing and you’re out for a week, a month, a year -your fault or no-fault- even if you have regular medical insurance it won’t pay the rest of your bills!
So, for the living in the moment surfer, is it worth it to be cautious and protected?
At the very least you want some form of emergency or “catastrophic coverage“ – which doesn’t include regular doctor visits -or has a huge deductible- but does include major hospital and medical expenses. And if you’re on a surf-safari, especially to a foreign country (for that trip you’re taking this hurricane season to Indo or the Mentawais), it’s worth the peace of mind to get yourself some traveler’s insurance (yes, even on top of your medical – as many insurance companies won’t cover you abroad, and don’t include all the things that can go wrong when traveling). Even many pro-surfers neglect the obvious – and they’re regularly touring around the world, continuously introducing themselves to lovely new forms of bacteria their bodies are not used to. For example, sweet-styley goofy-foot pro Ryan Carlson had to learn the hard way via some staph courtesy of a Puerto Rican sea urchin… and the sh*t-load of bills that came with it.
You’d think pros could afford top-notch health insurance (or perhaps some surfing association would cover them), but unless you’re in the tippy-top rung, often you’re only scoring free gear and some spattering of contest money. Luckily -at least for those well-known in the sport- they seem to be able to rely on the compassion of other surfers, who help out with benefits, surf contests, and other fund-raising efforts. But us regular Joes, usually there’s no big benefit concert waiting for us when we get home from the hospital.
And though many surfers are actually functional citizens, there are a few, ehem, beach bums out there. Those who would opt to spend their last buck on a bar of surf wax before buying a box of band-aids. Many surfers, and athletes in general, rely on the fact that they are decently healthy and fit – yet that doesn’t necessarily protect you from unforeseen. Aussie surfer Richie Lovett had insurance – but with limits (read that fine print), which left him with over $200,000 in bills. Many surfers, like four-time cancer survivor and pro Dean Randazzo, have discovered this the hard way. He started the Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation to help surfers with or without medical insurance who have to deal with cancer and its side effects – it’s hard to focus on your fight for survival while the bills are mounting up.
It’s not just skin cancers, suffered by pro Rowen Barrett and pro-mom Jeannie Chesser- we see many with rare bone cancers as well. The skin cancers seem obvious and common side-effects; surfers feel impervious. It’s almost as if they have to – it’s not like they can stay out of the sun while enjoying the sport (and for some reason many wrongly believe their sunscreen lasts more than an hour without reapplying!). For those who get cancer that causes pain in the hip, leg or, like Jason Bogle, their back, often they don’t get it checked out right away, as our mind opts to associate it with some past surf injury, over-exertion, or the joys of trying to bust the moves while getting a lil’ bit older. And since early detection is essential – that’s not a good thing.
Though the medical insurance list of “injuries people are at risk for” includes drowning and shark attacks, it doesn’t include what may be much more of a hazard for surfers, and that is polluted water. Sure, us surfers like to think of our sport as cleansing -and spiritually it always is- but in reality, physically, it really depends on the spot we surf. Often surf breaks occur in run-off zones laden with fertilizers, pesticides, sewage, and all the bacteria the environmental imbalances create, which obviously puts more than 1 in 64,453 -or a yearly total of 64- surfers at risk. If a company were to offer an efficient insurance plan that was specifically designed for surfers, it would have to be a complete package which would include the wide-range of factors surfers contend with every day we go out in the water, wherever we decide to safari. Though there are some companies in Australia and Britain that seem to better understand the coverage needs of the sports enthusiast, for now America is laggin’ behind.
If the life experiences of the surfers who came before us can be a lesson, don’t leave it up to fate. If you surf enough, if you take chances (if the people surfing around you take chances), you’re eventually going to get injured. Surfers consider it part of ‘paying your dues’. Hopefully you’re not faced with a major accident or illness, but if so, the bedridden dreams of getting back into the waves may inspire you to recover in record time, better than you were before. Odds are you won’t need insurance if “the big one bites” but chances are you may find yourself in a situation where you’ll be absolutely stoked you’re covered.
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Since plans vary depending depending upon individual needs, age, location…you need to search out what is best for you. Here are a few added links to possibly help – plus some that include alternative therapies. If you are a student there are additional options you should research.:
• If you are a regular surfer in the UK you should consider membership in the BPSA, full membership at 20 pounds a year includes Personal Accident Insurance +£5,000,000 Public Liability Insurance.
• American Specialty Medical Networks My Life Plan Alternative Care Discounts for those with Blue Shield of California
• International Health Insurance (out of U.S.)
• Alternative Insurance (Health Care broker for Cali and Il.) – includes discount card for alternative medicine tratment and services from participating practitioners..
• Check out Benefits Check-up to see if you qualify for benefits in your state.
[Note: if you have a favorite alternative care practitioner, ask what insurance they accept, and then look into those.