Health Insurance for Commercial Fishermen
May 9th, 2009
The fishing industry in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New York and all the coastal fishing states need to have the national health care plan re-established that was in place for more than 180 years. The national health insurance for commercial fishermen coverage was stopped in 1981 when President Ronald Regan was in office. When one thinks of national funding for health insurance coverage, one might think of socialized medicine, but it’s not the same. President John Adams signed a bill into law to provide medical care to fishermen in 1799. The name for this nationally funded health care system was called “Maintenance and Cure. A marine hospital system was created so that sick and injured seamen could get the health care they needed.
Maintenance and Cure are maritime words; however, the system worked something like the way that worker’s compensation works. The word “maintenance” meant that the seaman was paid a check for compensation while he was unable to work. The word “cure” meant that health care expenses were paid for by the national health care plan.
Many owners of smaller shipping vessels hire independent contractors. According to the federal tax code, the crewmembers are independent contractors if they work on fishing vessels that have less than 10 people on board. If they can afford it, independent contractors carry health insurance for the self-employed, personal health coverage. Self-employed commercial fishermen “for hire” work for a percentage of the catch; the income one person could make could range from 10 percent all the way to 20 percent of the catch, depending on their skill as seamen.
The fishing industry is one of the most dangerous jobs there is in the United States. While fishermen supply the market with seafood, the crew can easily get hurt. It is often difficult for self-employed fishermen to obtain health insurance, due to the high risk involved. The cost of health insurance is often just out of reach. In recent years over 35 fishermen lost their lives annually. The most common cause of death for people in the fishing industry is drowning.
Besides drowning, the crew has to use very sharp knives to gut the fish. One slip of the knife can be very serious. Furthermore, fishing vessels are at the mercy of nature; huge waves can wash over the deck and cause crew members to be washed overboard. Due to the nature of the job, health insurance for self-employed people working in the fishing industry comes with very high premiums. Unfortunately, some people in the fishing industry have to go without health insurance.
Due to the high cost of health insurance, fishermen are trying to get better health insurance benefits for themselves and their families. They are asking that that all fishing organizations band together to get their senators and congressmen involved providing all fishermen with national fishermen’s health care benefits.
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