As many as 300.000 Croatians could soon have their public health insurance policies cancelled by the Croatian Health Insurance Fund (HZZO), reports Novi list. Namely, Health Minister Vili Beroš has announced that the HZZO would be cancelling the policies of those insured whose residency or employment status does not grant them the right to free health coverage anymore.
Most of that list consists of citizens who emigrated in the last decade and now work and reside abroad, but retain their Croatian public health insurance at the expense of the state on the basis of being unemployed in Croatia.
A large number of such policyholders prefer to use the services of GPs or dentists when they visit Croatia, as they find it much more affordable than the equivalent service in the country they currently reside in. It’s estimated that two thirds of Croatian emigrants avail of their health insurance benefits in such a manner.
The HZZO states that a considerably large number of people benefit from the rights guaranteed by their public health insurance despite not paying the compulsory insurance contributions. The exact number could become known in a month’s time, once HZZO and the Croatian Employment Service (HZZ) have merged their databases.
All citizens who are not on file with the HZZ, but avail of the free compulsory health insurance on the basis of their unemployment status, will have their health insurance policies cancelled, as well as their dependents.
According to the director of the HZZO Lucian Vukelić, those citizens who are not registered with the HZZ as unemployed persons could lose their free health insurance policies as early as in February 2022, once the two institutions have signed the data exchange agreement.
In recent years, many Croatian citizens have left their homeland in search of work; while the number of HZZ applicants dropped significantly as a result, they mostly remained on file with the HZZO and held onto their free health insurance.
A number of Croatian emigrants were removed from the HZZO database in the summer of 2021, after a data exchange with the Ministry of the Interior showed which citizens had cancelled their residency in Croatia.
According to the HZZO, at present it’s nearly impossible to find out which Croatian citizens work in other countries where they also pay their health insurance contributions and where they should thus avail of public healthcare as well. Even though it’s illegal to have public health insurance in two countries simultaneously, there still doesn’t exist a unified EU database that would reflect where citizens have contributory health insurance and use public health services.
‘Considering that there’s a bunch of different insurance providers in most countries, it’s impossible to obtain the data. You would have to search all over Europe for each policyholder individually to find out if they’re insured in a certain country. It so happens that no one in Croatia ever cancels their health insurance; [employers in] most EU countries are obligated to insure their workers upon employment, and so we end up with an enormous number of people who work abroad and are insured in Germany, Austria or Norway, whereas in Croatia their public health insurance remains covered by the national budget’, said Vukelić.
The HZZO does not have the exact figures regarding potential savings for the national budget if Croatians who are not factually unemployed were removed from the HZZO’s list of unemployed policyholders.
However, if we were to consider the 300.000 people in question, based on the health contribution rate of 16.5% of a monthly gross salary of e.g. HRK 5,000, the state is HRK 2,7 billion out of pocket each year. This does not even take into account the annual costs of health services in Croatia that such policyholders avail of.
The HZZO will also look to cancel the policies of Croatian citizens who have not left the country, but use the benefits provided by their health coverage even though they are not paying the contributions.
An example of this are undeclared workers who neither pay for the coverage nor are they on file with the HZZ, but retain their free health insurance. Such persons will need to register with the HZZ and find legal work, i.e. pay the relevant taxes and contributions.