There are dive locations throughout the world that ask for a contribution to the local chamber. It is not mandatory: it is a donation to help support the local chamber. It is not a special type of insurance, either. It is intended to help chambers located in some remote areas where diving is usually the main source of tourism. The amount of the requested donation varies from location to location, depending on the number of divers who visit the area. The cost of chamber operations is generally a set cost.
Contributions help offset the cost of providing chamber services over the course of a year. The dive business is seasonal: sometimes the area has a number of divers; at other times, the divers are considerably fewer in number. Chambers require staffing at the same level of response 365 days of the year, whether it is the peak diving season or not. By requesting a chamber donation, dive businesses assure the continuing existence of a chamber.
There are benefits from donating to the local chamber - at least to some chambers. Even though a diver has good health insurance as well as DAN dive accident insurance, some chambers require that the diver pay for treatment with cash or a credit card before leaving. (This means the diver will have to pay for the treatment and file for reimbursement through insurance.)
Why is this an issue despite insurance? Bad memories can last a long time. Unfortunately, over the years many divers have promised to pay the chamber; once they arrived home, however, they never filed the claim. This has left the chambers to sort out the cost of treatment.
With chamber donation programs, a diver should have no unpaid bills when he leaves.
Unfortunately, because the programs we are talking about are located in several different countries, the local interpretation of the chamber donation by the dive provider is not uniform. Divers have called us to say they were presented with various conditions for treatment: e.g., they would not be treated if they didn't make a donation; or, it didn't matter whether they had insurance, they still had to pay a chamber fee.
The chambers will treat an individual whether or not he has made the suggested donation. But the chambers are entitled to be paid for their services and will probably insist on some form of payment before someone leaves. In response to your making a donation, the chamber will take on the burden of filing an insurance claim.
We seldom think about the system in place to assist injured divers. The chamber donation program provides one way to contribute to such a system. Dive accident insurance is a sensible way to protect the diver from the high costs of recompression treatment, which can cost from hundreds of dollars to several thousand dollars.
A diver who is required to pay for services before leaving the dive destination, should do these things:
- Once he arrives home, he should contact his primary health insurance as soon as possible and file a claim.
- Next, he should contact National Baromedical Services, which is the company that processes all DAN member insurance claims.
- Once he has received an explanation of Benefits from the primary insurance, he may submit a claim form for reimbursement from DAN insurance.
Let's be responsible in our diving -- and in our responsibilities to our chambers and their staff.