While many pilots are anxiously awaiting May 1, when third class medical reform becomes reality, others are facing a problem: Their insurance companies are requiring an FAA medical in spite of the new reforms, now called BasicMed by the FAA.
Take Bill Talutis of Murchison, Texas, who said in a recent Letter to the Editor that his insurance company insists he get an FAA flight physical and medical certificate.
“If I want to fly BasicMed, they simply will not insure me,” he said. “It is their prerogative, I suppose, to deny insurance regardless of the legality of my BasicMed compliance. And, of course I will seek insurance elsewhere. But the hype accompanying the final rule seems a little misplaced at the moment. Perhaps all these issues will sort themselves out in time. Meanwhile I am on the hunt for a better insurance carrier.”
But how successful will that hunt be?
According to a number of insurance agents, Bill should be able to fly under BasicMed and still be insured — in time.
“This is typical when a change comes about with the FAA regs,” noted Jon Harden, president of Aviation Insurance Resources. “Usually the insurance industry takes a very conservative approach at first, as they did with the Light Sport movement and no FAA medical requirement. However after one insurance market decides to embrace the change, most of the other markets tend to follow — maybe not right away, but over a short period of time.”
He notes that he hasn’t seen any of the insurance markets indicate a problem accepting the new rules for BasicMed.
“With that said, there are some markets that may have in their underwriting requirements that a pilot must have a valid FAA medical on certain make and model airplanes or at certain age limits or combination,” he said. “But since there is so much competition between all of the insurance companies right now — we continue to be in a very soft market, which has been great for aircraft owners — there most likely is a suitable alternative for the pilot who does not want to maintain an FAA medical. The best way to do this is to make sure you are working with an aviation insurance specialist who understands these problems and works with all of the insurance markets to make sure all options are explored.”
Some pilots may need to jump through hoops as the insurance markets learn about the new rules, echoed Bob Mackey, senior vice president of EAA Insurance Solutions administered by Falcon Insurance Agency.
Older pilots, those flying certain aircraft, those living in certain geographic areas, and those with a history will find some pushback from their insurance companies, he said.
He explained that insurance companies have always established their own standards when it comes to pilots and medicals.
As an example, prior to BasicMed, some companies required annual medicals for older pilots flying certain aircraft, such as high performance or six-place aircraft.
In other situations, insurance companies have stipulated that pilots with certain medical waivers obtain additional medical tests above and beyond those required by the FAA.
“These are exceptions and do not come up very often,” he added.
However, it is very likely, even with medical reform, that there will be those “rare situations where the pilot is older (an undefined term), and the aircraft is high-performance or configured with six or more seats, that the insurance company may require either an annual FAA medical or annual FAA medical and an annual Flight Review or recurrent training.”
“We are, and any smart aviation insurance broker should, leaning on the insurance company underwriters to look at flight reviews and recurrent training as having more value than an FAA medical,” he noted.
He added that his agency contacted all the companies that underwrite aircraft insurance for GA pilots and found that 100% of the companies support the new FAA medical reform.
“They also did not anticipate any change in their underwriting approach to pilots flying owned or non-owned aircraft that will no longer require an FAA medical,” he said. “That having been said, we recommend that pilots check with their agent to make sure their insurance coverage will not be affected if they choose to fly under the new BasicMed.”