Retroactive Health Insurance: Have you fallen prey?

Warning: Rant post!

Bills *and I mean big bills, seem to be pouring in our household lately. The kind of bills that will take half of your salary. And the worst thing about it is, they come as surprises *or more likely shock, as we were not really expecting any of it.

One of the bigger bills was from my insurance company. Couple of months ago, I have blogged about the medical service dilemma that I am having in this country. Well this time, it is about the health insurance. And from what I have gathered, I am not alone.

I came to the Netherlands on a short term visa first, for one year. According to Dutch law, I have to be covered by a health insurance for the whole duration of my stay. So from March 2009 to March 2010, I was fully insured.

In October last year, I got my resident permit as a partner. In their confirmation email, the IND said that they expect that I would get a health insurance but did not exactly elaborate on it. Confident that I am insured until the next year and I am not breaking the law, I opted to wait until my insurance lapses to get a new one.

Big mistake.

Come March 2010 I applied for an insurance policy from a different company, recommended by a medical professional (and no he isn’t working in the medical field anymore so there is no hidden agenda in there). First they that did was refuse to pay for my eye glasses when most of the insurance companies here in the Netherlands include that in their coverage. I let that go, it was just a could of hundred euros and maybe the belasting will refund some.

When my insurance card arrived, I noticed that the start of the policy was October 2009. We actually laughed about it at first, thinking that it was a mistake on their part. Turns out that there is a law for immigrants to get a long term policy from the moment they get their long term permit from a government-recognized health insurance company. They told me that my former company only covers short term stays and thus the remaining months that I am insured cannot be taken into account.

So with a heavy heart and mind screaming “Niet eerlijk!” I ended up paying about 600euros (from October 2009-March 2010), an amount supposed to be kept for something beautiful.

There are some lessons to be learned here. Lessons that I paid dearly for *literally.

1. For those staying on short term visas, if you have plans on staying longer, get a health coverage from the big insurance companies here in the Netherlands. Do not forget to ask them if your policy will be recognized by the government once you changed your status.

2. Ask your health insurance company the full coverage of your policy and WHAT THEY DO NOT COVER. As a foreigner not accustomed to the language, I know that this can be difficult. If you are staying with a partner, ask him to do the questioning and make sure you understand everything yourself. If you are living alone, force them them to explain it to you in English. You would not want surprises especially when it is about money. This country can bleed you dry.

3. Do not go for the policy that has “own risk”. With my previous insurance company, I paid for the whole year, went to the doctor twice, first for a small tooth hole refilling *cost me 60euros and second for some tests *big 160 euros bill and the insurance company wasn’t able to help in any way because of the own risk policy wherein the first 200euros will be paid from my own pocket. If you are a young, healthy migrant, never take the own risk policy, it will make you heart cries.

4. Ask the IND when exactly should you start with a new health insurance policy, if your old one is not recognize yet. This hasn’t been clear to me yet as Ive no time to investigate which law allowed my insurance company to retro-activate my policy.

And oh it doesnt stop there. I heard the same story from somebody. She told me that when her husband lost his job, he also could not pay his health insurance anymore. For 3 years he was jobless. When he got hired again, the insurance company billed him for the whole 3 years that he wasn’t paying. And he didnt have a choice but to oblige. How gek (crazy) is that?!