News - August 30, 2016

Deposit first, then hospital treatment

Albert Sikkema

Foreign students and PhD researchers at Wageningen UR can only be treated at the Gelderse Vallei hospital in Ede after paying a deposit of 300 euros. The main reason for this is that their health insurance company does not cover all treatment costs.

Gloria Ngya, a PhD candidate in Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction, had to go to the Gelderse Vallei hospital recently to get a urine test done. She had to pay a 300 euro deposit for this simple health check. Ngya, who came to Wageningen from the Democratic Republic Congo on a Nuffic grant, did not have the money. She was still able to get the test done thanks to a colleague who advanced her the 300 euros.

Ngya is not alone in having to pay a deposit for hospital treatment in Ede. All foreign students and PhD candidates with AON health insurance policies have to pay this sum – a regulation in force since 1 January 2016. The insurance company has a debt at the hospital so Gelderse Vallei does not want to have to submit any more claims to AON. The Wageningen students and PhD candidates pay a 300 euro deposit for a treatment costing, say, 70 euros, get 230 back from the hospital and have to claim for the 70 euros from AON themselves.

The hospital sees AON as an insurer with ‘limited payment conditions’, it states in a letter. This means the hospital runs the risk of not being able to recover the entire cost of a treatment from AON.

All foreign students and researchers from outside the EU who want to study in Wageningen have to take out health insurance to qualify for a residence permit. Wageningen UR has a deal with AON on insurance cover, says spokesperson Simon Vink.

The students and PhD candidates are not obliged to take out health insurance with AON, says Vink, but AON does provide the widest coverage of health costs for the lowest price. If students and PhD candidates opt for a different insurance, they are free to arrange that themselves, says the spokesperson.

Vink sees this as an issue between the hospital and the insurance company. He points out that the Rijnstate hospital in Arnhem does not ask students for a deposit before treating them, because this hospital does claim directly to AON for the costs. Vink hopes the hospital and the insurance company will reach an agreement so the current problem will be solved. At the moment foreign students are the victims of the situation.

There is no simple solution. Foreign students and most PhD candidates from outside the EU cannot get the basic health insurance offered by Dutch health insurance companies because that is only allowed for those working in the Netherlands. The AON policy is a kind of extended travel insurance with limited coverage. AON does not, for example, cover treatment of already existing conditions.