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Hartz IV: Debt through health insurance
Hartz IV recipients have to pay additional contributions from the statutory health insurers and privately insured aid recipients have to struggle with mountains of debt. This is due to an insufficient legal situation and numerous gaps in the system. However, the black and yellow federal government is making little effort to change this intolerable situation.
Actually, the legal situation is clear, whoever is dependent on unemployment benefit II does not have to pay for health insurance. The job centers are obliged to pay the full health insurance contributions. The health insurance companies offer a reduced contribution rate especially for this. However, numerous loopholes in the law and inadequate regulations enable those affected to still have to pay contributions for health protection from the standard benefits. The Federal Government sees no need for action so far and continues to pass ambiguities on to the social courts.
Privately insured Hartz IV recipients with high mountains of debt
The Federal Social Court pronounced just such a judgment on January 18 this year. Here the top guardians of social law made it clear that privately insured Hartz IV recipients have full entitlement to the assumption of an appropriate basic tariff. Until this verdict, those affected had to fill the coverage gap from the balancing benefits. An almost impossible feat that they had to cope with, as we know that the ALG II rule set is hardly enough to cover the daily need for clothing, nutrition and cultural participation. The result: Most Hartz IV recipients with private health insurance got into debt.
Although the mountains of debt were caused by the insufficient legal situation, the job centers retroactively refuse to pay the private health insurance contributions. For the lawyer Markus Klinder, the case is clear: Here the Federal Employment Agency disregards the judgment of the Federal Social Court. Apparently on instructions from the federal government. A response from the Federal Government to a “small question” from the parliamentary group of the Left shows that the full amount of the contributions only have to be paid retrospectively until the judgment is made. Up to this point, however, those affected have accumulated thousands of euros in debt. It remains open whether the premium arrears will be reimbursed in full. The answer given here states: "Whether and to what extent the decision of the Federal Social Court has an impact on the accrued premium debt can only be assessed if the written reason for the judgment is available". Private health insurers are also demanding that the accumulated debts be paid. The PKV association announced that the outstanding contributions would not be waived. Either way, one insists on the payment of the missing contributions. Now those concerned worry whether politics is acting or letting them down again. Health economists assume that these are likely to be four-figure sums that have accumulated among those affected in the past two years.
The situation proves to be particularly serious when those affected re-emerge from the Hartz IV relationship. "Then the problem becomes acute," Anke Plener, specialist lawyer for social law in Berlin, told the daily newspaper TAZ. "If a person in need succeeds but does not pay the arrears in the private health insurance, their insurance coverage drops to emergency care." Because, according to a special clause, health protection only applies to Hartz IV. As soon as he has overcome unemployment and cannot pay the arrears, the basic protection changes to emergency care without health benefits.
Additional contributions despite social equalization The current situation is particularly annoying for statutory health insurers in ALG II. According to the adopted health care reform for low-wage earners, social compensation should actually take place if the health insurance company charges an additional contribution. But the opposite is the case. Because only a minority of health insurers currently charge an additional contribution, the current average additional contribution is zero euros, although 13 of the 160 health insurers charge an additional fee from their insured. If the health insurance company changes its statutes, unemployed people must also pay the average additional contribution of eight euros. The problem is bigger than the federal government admits, because even large health insurers like the DAK charge additional contributions. Since the DAK has been demanding an additional contribution since spring 2010, those affected cannot exercise a special right of termination. This right only exists if the health fund immediately makes an additional contribution or increases the existing one. Since the job centers refuse to assume the costs and point out the right to terminate, Hartz 4 recipients must pay the additional contribution from the standard benefits. And at Hartz IV, eight euros means about two days without having to get food. (sb)
Read on this topic:
Exemption from additional contributions at Hartz IV
Consequences of the deletion of the additional requirements at Hartz-IV
Picture: Dr. Klaus-Uwe Gerhardt / pixelio.de