What You Don't Know About Insurance for BASE and Paragliding

Disappearing Travel Insurance for BASE Jumpers (and Other Topics)

Mountain-rescue.jpg
A mountain rescue is an expensive thing indeed. Image © Mark Sequeira

For many of us -- especially Americans -- it's a recurring nightmare.

You wake up in the hospital after a serious injury, only to find out that the insurance policy you bought and paid for has suddenly, mysteriously and irreversibly withdrawn coverage for your sport. The bill will be hundreds of thousands of dollars. You're hooped.

Unfortunately, that scenario is no simple nightmare for far too many airsports athletes: BASE jumpers, acro paragliders, cross-country enthusiasts and speedwing pilots among them.

How can you avoid that life-derailing situation? Who covers our sports reliably? How can you navigate those massive terms and conditions effectively and precisely?

To answer these questions, I reached out to Mark Sequeira, a Director at Good Neighbor Adventure Sports Insurance. The division has been arranging special-requirements-heavy international health insurance for 17 years, often for travelers and expats in the world’s most remote regions. One of a tiny handful of agencies who work with extreme sports athletes – and the only one in the US – his office works with many of the top carriers around the world to design adrenaline-heavy policies.

Sequeira’s office arranges cover for an exhaustive list of sports, from jiu jitsu training in Brazil to running with the bulls in Spain. “These guys are out there doing stuff everyone else just talks about,” Sequeira enthuses. “Crazy relief and development work, photojournalism through wars and riots, marine insurance against piracy off the Somali coast – you name it.

We specialize in helping those who go the farthest and try the hardest.”

Me: I heard that no insurance covers BASE jumping anymore. Is that true?

Mark: Unfortunately, that is indeed true. We used to have two plans that covered BASE jumping; however, due to outrageous claims, as well as new PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) laws which have no limit on medical coverage per accident, every insurance in the US has dropped the sport.

Travelguard was the last one we knew that had been willing to underwrite BASE jumping. Other countries currently have some insurance offerings for BASE jumping, but that’s on a country-by-country basis.

Me: What data do underwriters use to calculate their risks?

Mark: Carriers like to write a large number of policies and as little risk as possible. Adding two BASE jumpers to a policy and having a claim from one of the two is a 50% risk. No actuary is going to encourage an insurance carrier to assume that high a risk. If the population of BASE jumpers was larger, there might be a larger pool and therefore the risk per jumper might go down. Also, as you can imagine, death due to sport – or sport-related complications resulting in death – is a huge motivator for an insurer to consider excluding a sport or activity.

In great part due to that phenomenon – the risk pool – the continuing process of individualization and specialization within airsports currently presents a significant challenge to insurers. To use an example from the paragliding world: acro and cross-country paragliding would have been covered in the past under the general umbrella of paragliding. Now, however, athletes practicing the sport have set themselves publicly apart as demonstrating greater risks than those embraced by the greater group.

Carriers can recognize and exclude that discipline from the larger fan base of paragliding.

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O'Neil, Annette. "What You Don't Know About Insurance for BASE and Paragliding." ThoughtCo, Jan. 18, 2016, thoughtco.com/insurance-for-base-and-paragliding-1240432. O'Neil, Annette. (2016, January 18). What You Don't Know About Insurance for BASE and Paragliding. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/insurance-for-base-and-paragliding-1240432 O'Neil, Annette. "What You Don't Know About Insurance for BASE and Paragliding." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/insurance-for-base-and-paragliding-1240432 (accessed November 21, 2017).