No way to prevent insurance fine letters

Zorginstituut Nederland says they have no way of preventing international students getting letters demanding insurance in summer. So the university wants to start warning them.

Just like last year, Zorginstituut Nederland sent out letters demanding that EU students be insured for healthcare. And just like last year, they sent them out in summer – at the exact moment when students are out of town or in-between houses. So Sarah Mille, a 25-year-old German student doing a psychology master, got her letter – actually, letters – late.

‘So frustrating!’ she says. ‘Because if you don’t answer within six weeks, you get an incasso – collection agency – letter. You’re probably gone for two months for the whole break, so you’ll get that for sure if you get the first one in July’, she says. One of the first letters she saw was the incasso. ‘Of course, that’s a big deal.’

Getting it sorted

Federico Bellani, a 23-year-old Italian student pursuing a master’s in human resource management, got his letters five months late. That meant a fine of nearly 350 euros for something he didn’t even need, and he knew it.

‘I’ve been studying abroad before and I know that European insurance should be enough’, he says. His Dutch housemates helped him to figure out what the letter was asking for and he went to the ISD last week, picked up his forms and submitted them on Friday. ‘The only solution is going to the ISD and getting that sorted’, he says.

Sadly enough, the whole cycle will probably start again next summer. ZiN begins checking the insurance status of municipality registrations in January and in May. The January check has letters sent out in March, and the check conducted in May means that students are notified in July. ‘We are trying to arrange that the University will send out an email to all international students through Progress to warn them about this issue in the end of February and in June’, says Jolien van Lierop from the ISD. ‘We hope this will prevent many from having to pay a fine.’

Automatically generated

ZiN says there’s no way to stop the letter being sent in the first place. ‘We get a name and we don’t know if this is an international student. We only receive the names of people who have an address in Holland’, says a representative from the uninsured department of ZiN who doesn’t want to be mentioned by name. ‘The letter is automatically generated and therefore always written in Dutch.’ ZiN does have authority to look up extra information from the municipality, but doesn’t use it.

Also, although recipients can request that future correspondence is written in English, that is not mentioned in the first notice. A link instructing foreign students to visit doesn’t work.

Students with questions should contact the uninsured department and they can inform them – in English – of all steps to take to proceed. Meanwhile, the instructions on the ZiN website for what to do if you are fined, like all other information, are only available in Dutch. What’s more: the third notices are beginning to arrive for students this week, and students who registered at the municipality in September will likely be getting letters in January. The cycle continues.