Kafka must have been a customer of a Dutch health insurer

Once of the main reasons not to live in the Netherlands, especially if you plan to leave at some point, is the Dutch health care system. It has similar problems to the UK health care system but, in their infinite wisdom, the Dutch government decided on an even more complicated way of funding the health care needs of their citizens.

Residents of the Netherlands are required to pay in two ways. The first and by far and away the largest contribution is via general taxation. This causes few problems when you leave, because as soon as you cease to be liable for tax in the Netherlands you stop paying this income related contribution too.

The second way of paying is via a health insurance policy with a private insurance company which is a legal requirement if you live in the Netherlands. It is these private sector insurers that create problems when you try and leave the country. When my brother left the Netherlands he was pursued for months by his insurance company that insisted he provided proof of his health insurance policy in the country he’d moved to. Of course he moved to the UK where, as a citizen, you are covered automatically and do not need private health insurance. So he couldn’t provide sufficient proof for the Dutch insurance company that he was insured in the UK and therefore they decided he was still required to pay premiums in the Netherlands.

The good thing about his experience was that I was forewarned. Good in the sense that I expected I would have problems moving to Norway where private health insurance is not a legal requirement and as a legal resident of the country you are automatically covered. However what I didn’t expect was the particularly innovative and obstructive way in which my health insurer (FBTO) is refusing to end my health insurance. Despite me not having any income at all anywhere and FBTO having proof from a Dutch goverment agency that I no longer have an income in the Netherlands, due to emigration, and FBTO having proof that I am legally resident in Norway, my friendly insurers still keep insisting that I am required to have Dutch health insurance.

I often smile wryly when reading forums where Dutch immigrants in Norway complain bitterly about Norwegian bureaucracy. Of course, growing up in the Netherlands as a Dutch citizen they would never have experienced the nonsensical nature of many of the laws and regulations of their own country, nor the struggle that many foreigners have getting something as simple as a temporary residency permit from the Dutch authorities. I have, and from my perspective Norwegian bureaucracy appears to be rather more efficient (touch wood) and, in stark contrast to the Dutch bureaucratic agencies, capable of giving me the correct information the first time I ask the question.

So, for now, it seems my life is unavoidably full of mildly surreal Kafka-esque interactions with members of the Dutch bureaucracy. It is really hard talking to people on the phone who seem to have no interest in solving the problem, whilst at the same time treating you with mix of suspicion and a lack of respect. Quite why they have to do that I don’t know.

All I want to do is end my health insurance policy.