One of the requirements of Universal Health Care is that it be truly Universal: everyone in the Netherlands is required to sign up for (at least) basic insurance. There are few exceptions: an expat with US insurance, working for a multinational corporation, in the Netherlands for a limited time, is one of the few.
So, when I started my own business and needed (redundant) insurance, I chose a very satisfactory policy from VGZ, a big national insurer. From a policy standpoint, they’ve been great: a nice array of a la carte service options with my choice of provider, reasonable rates, and no questions asked coverage of my post-surgical care and rehab.
However, their routine check of my residency confirmed that I’ve lived here for three years, yet am only now applying for health insurance. That’s a potential problem, and I duly received a note asking what I had done for coverage up to this point.
I went down to the local VGZ office and gave them my (still valid) US Blue Cross card, with the explanation of my previous employment, coverage, and exemption. Copies were made, smiles exchanged.
A follow-up note arrived last week: We appreciate receiving your card, but it is insufficient.
My (cynical) friends shook their heads darkly. VGZ could get 3500 euro in back penalties, equivalent to the premiums that I might have paid. This would not be easy.
My follow-on visit to VGZ was not promising. Did I have a copy of a policy, proof of employment, registration, paperwork to demonstrate my exemption? I explained that our relationship with insurers is much more indirect in the US than in the Netherlands: our employer gets the contract and we get a little card. Further, my expatriate intake was handled by a wonderful group who did the requisite paperwork, but it was out of my sight and is now beyond my grasp.
No, I wasn’t willing to ask Blue Cross for proof of insurance and a copy of the contract that was in force for the past three years. (I can only imagine the pain of even trying to explain this to them.)
We settled on creating a more direct connection between VGZ and my prior employer (one more good reason for never burning bridges). Forms and paperwork are apparently beginning to move, and I’m assured that I’ll get another letter in a few weeks.
Hopefully, it will tell me that everything is cleared up, but it’s a good lesson that they do check and will follow-up if you put off the task of finding coverage.