Monday, June 25, 2007

To pay: 1779 kr

Last week I came home to find a couple of letters from Germany in my mail.

One was from the German insurance company that I had to pair up with to get a German health insurance. I thought that maybe they had finally gotten around to send me the insurance card that they promised me almost 2 months ago. However, it was just a second reminder of a questionary that I had to fill in and return (that I had actually done more than a week before, even though I have never seen the first questionary – only the reminder of it!).

The second letter contained some words on the envelope that immediately got me a bit worried – I smelled some kind of bill. I opened the letter and just as anticipated it was a bill – from a company representing the German ambulance service, Deutsches Rotes Kreuz. If you read my last entry you may guess what this bill was all about.

Being born and bred in Denmark, I have never been accustomed to much self-payment when it comes to health care. Every Dane has a civil registration number and a health insurance certificate issued by the municipality where he/she lives. This card entitles the holder to get free medical attention - except if you need medical statement or the like - by your PCP, treatment and admission on any public hospital and/or ER, and urgent paramedic assistance when needed. It is also possible to underwrite additional insurances to cover some or all of the expenses to dental care, physiotherapy, chiropractor treatment and the like.

I know that the abovementioned benefits are costly, and that is why we pay rather high taxes (40-60 % of our income), but it makes sure that no matter your income and insurance status you are able to get basal treatment at any time needed.

The Danish health insurance certificate also serves as a travel health insurance to some degree in some parts of the world. Therefore, I had this certificate along with me, when I went to Germany, as I hadn’t received any card to show my relation to the German health insurance company. On the night of June 12th when my parents, through the receptionist at the institute where I was living, required medical assistance to overcome the severe hypoglycaemic reaction I was caught in, the only “insurance card” that the paramedics could relate to was my Danish one.

The reason why I needed to establish a German health insurance when initiating my work in Germany was that my Danish insurance could not cover me when I was working abroad, being paid by a non-Danish employer – and it didn’t matter whether I would have the general yellow Danish health insurance certificate or the blue European one. Some of you may remember the difficulty I had finding out what insurance what needed and getting it settled. Therefore, there was no doubt in my mind that the bill from the German ambulance service sitting in my hands would not be covered by my Danish health insurance. I did have other Danish insurance alternatives, but I figured that the chances of getting them to cover this were equally small, given the fact that I was working abroad, not being on vacation. Left was the German health insurance. I had a letter from them, dated May 4th, that I had been accepted by their plan, stating an insurance number and a promise that I would receive an insurance card to show my membership within a few days. As mentioned, this had never happened.

I logged on to the Internet to investigate the actual terms of this German insurance (i.e. what is the actual coverage, and is it managed by reimbursement or directly, etc.). I didn’t get much wiser by searching their web-page, though – not only because it was in German ;-)

I decided to call them the next day in stead, in order to ask about the second reminder of the questionary that I had already handed in, the missing insurance card, and then whether they would cover the cost of the ambulance service and how.

I was lucky enough that the insurance worker answering my call was willing to try to get through the conversation in English. Essentially, I do understand quite a lot of German, but I have difficulty expressing myself (I haven’t used this language since public school 13 years ago), and in this situation I wanted to make sure that I understood everything right just as much as I wanted to be sure that got my message through. Still, I am a little worried about the latter :-/

I was told that the insurance company would reinitiate the process of issuing an insurance card to me, that I should just ignore the second reminder of the questionary given that I had obviously already filled it in, and that of course they would cover the ambulance service since it happened on June 12th and I was officially included in their member crowd as of June 1st. I was instructed not to pay the bill, but send it to the insurance company for them to take care of it. I did that immediately, including a letter of information about my conversation with the employee and the fact that I had never received an insurance card. Additionally, I included copies of the letters from the insurance company about my acceptance – for them to see the dates – as well as a copy of my Danish health insurance certificate to point out that even though this was what the paramedics had used to note information about me on their chart, they had managed to get my date of birth all wrong (my date of birth is 14.08.1977, but this somehow turned into 17.08.1977 on the paramedics’ chart and therefore also on the bill). In my letter of information I requested to be notified when the bill have been paid/if they for some reason are not able to pay it before July 2nd when it is due, so that I will not receive reminder fees. I hope that I do not have to worry about that, but I can’t help it. It is just something about foreign business partners, not least on the insurance side, that makes me very careful trusting them.

By the way, the bill amounted to 235.19 Euros (1779 Dkr or 315.3 $) for 30 min of work. Hypoglycaemia sure can be expensive!


Chrissie in Belgium said...

Oh Heidi, red tape, it drives you nuts! Hope it all works out OK. It seems like you do have a handle on it!

Heidi said...

Chrissie - I hope so, but I don't think I can rest completely until I've had some reassurance from the insurance company/haven't heard anything additionally from the DRK within the next month or so :-)

manny hernandez said...

Reading your post stirs up some of the thoughts from the movie SICKO we saw yesterday. :S

Anyway, just like did with Chrissie a few moments ago, I want to also invite you and your readers to join It's a growing global community of folks touched by diabetes.

We have a group of people from Europe, mainly UK and Netherlands, where you could contribute big time with your experience.

I would be honored to have you as a member!

Scott K. Johnson said...

What a mess. I hate dealing with that kind of stuff.

I hope it all shakes out for you!