Medical Reform for Pilots
For many years, AOPA and a host of aviation associations have expended much time and effort convincing the FAA and Congress to loosen the requirements for a 3rd Class Medical Examination. The idea was originally proposed in a petition for Rulemaking filed in 2009.
The GA community, convinced that relaxation of the need for frequent review by AMEs, wrote to the Secretary complaining about the delay in enacting the proposed rule. They also convinced a number of Members of Congress, who were also pilots, to introduce legislation which would mandate the reform.
Opposed to this measure were the Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) Association and the American Medical Association. More objectively and thus more impressively the NTSB and its Chairman expressed concerns about this change, which they saw as a diminution of the safety standard.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), one of the recipients of the industry lobbying, applauded the enactment of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill, which extends the FAA authority through September 2017, especially a section containing reforms to the medical certification process for general aviation pilots that increase training and educational opportunities and encourage more dialogue with their personal physician. As AOPA explained: “pilots who have held a valid medical certificate any time in the decade prior to July 15, 2016, may never have to take another FAA medical exam. While the FAA has up to one year to develop and issue regulations before pilots can fly under the reforms…”
While the technical opinions of the NTSB are, and should be, held in high regard, their general concerns are “trumped” (is that no longer a PC word?) by the following statement based on the insurance carriers expertise:
“We learned that, nearly across the board, medical reform should have no negative impacts on insurance coverage. What most of our carriers told us is that if a pilot is in compliance with the FAA regulations (including medical reform when finalized), then that pilot is in compliance with their company insurance requirements as well.
In fact, in most cases, the language in policies doesn’t even need to be changed. Many policies already state that a valid FAA medical, if required, must be in place for the airplane owner and if the owner follows the new regulations, nothing will change. Of course, we only spoke to the carriers with whom we partner on behalf of our members. To be prudent, when the FAA finalizes the regulations, you should check with your own airplane insurance carrier to determine its position on medical reform.
There’s more good news for AOPA members. Again, nearly 100 percent across the board, our carriers told us that they do not foresee any rate increases in insurance premiums due to medical reform. Do you know why? Because in more than a decade, insurance companies cannot cite any losses due solely to the medical condition of the pilot that would have been discovered from a third class medical exam.
Our insurance carriers are on board with medical reform. They will abide by the new FAA regulations and, frankly, see no changes required. That’s good news all around for the GA community!”
The actuarial wizards, who calculate the relevant risks of pilots without as rigorous medical regime to about five decimals =/- 0.000001. The insurance carriers are best equipped to measure the marginal differences due to the new standard. They have the data, the statisticians and the risk best qualified to make these judgments. If they are wrong, they will be paying out a lot of claims; that places a very heavy weight on the number crunchers’ precision.
The NTSB knows aviation safety, but the insurance industry knows risk quantification. What’s truly amazing, the private market is even better than the omniscient ones at OMB.