Health care system unfair to former migrant workers

1 May 2006

Health care system unfair to former migrant workers

Many people from outside the EU who have worked as migrant “guest workers” in the Netherlands and later returned home will, under new health insurance rules, be required to pay more in premiums than they would be entitled to receive in benefits. The problem arises because a European Regulation requires that they be charged the same as a person who continues to live in the Netherlands, while in most cases medical treatment in their own countries is much cheaper. SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer has put a parliamentary question to the European Commission asking them to exempt such people from the Regulation's requirement.

Erik Meijer“Persons who are subject to the Netherlands compulsory health insurance schemes but who in fact live, when they are not working, or after they cease to work, outside the EU, must pay what is in relative terms a very high premium,” Meijer said. “That's because it's calculated according to costs in the Netherlands, yet the scheme guarantees not that they can return for treatment but that the costs of treatment in their own countries or where they have become resident will be covered. In most cases costs are a great deal lower in the countries which have supplied the Netherlands with guest workers. In Morocco, for example, a benefits package is offered at € 7 per person per month which is comparable to an insurance costing more than ten times that in the Netherlands. The lower premium reflects hugely lower costs for health care.”

The EU's Council Regulation applies to people who have lived in the Netherlands and continue to come under the Dutch system after leaving the country. According to Meijer, “This rule is intended to protect the public. Yet in this case it does precisely the opposite, making former guest workers the victim of an injustice. The Commission should bring forward an amendment exempting them.”

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