Netherlands Vs Former Antilles

Dutch health insurance for islands’ students looked at. THE HAGUE

The Dutch government is looking at ways to make it possible for students from Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten in the Netherlands to get Dutch health insurance and to make use of the health allowance.

Dutch Minister of Education, Science and Culture Ingrid van Engelshoven stated this in response to written questions submitted by members of the second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Antje Diertens and Jan Paternotte, both of the Democratic Party D66.

The Members of Parliament (MPs) sought clarity in December last year after the alarming report of the National Ombudsman about the great challenges that Dutch Caribbean students face in the Netherlands.

The minister is taking that report seriously, she stated, explaining that she has met with National Ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen to discuss the matter. She also met with 10 Dutch Caribbean students who shared their stories about studying in the Netherlands. “It was useful to hear these personal experiences, and to hear their ideas about what can be done better in preparing and guiding the students,” Van Engelshoven stated.

The Education ministers of the four countries in the kingdom decided late 2019 to order an investigation into the transition issues that Dutch Caribbean students face when they go to the Netherlands. This investigation was carried out in 2020, and has been discussed in the recent Ministerial Four-Country Consultation Education and Culture. Details on this investigation will be shared with the Parliament later.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sports VWS and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor are investigating the possibility to adapt the law to make it possible for residents of the Dutch Caribbean countries to make use of the Dutch health insurance during their studies. Also looked into is the health allowance which lowers the monthly amount students have to pay in health insurance.

MPs Diertens and Paternotte had specifically asked about the reasons why Dutch Caribbean students could not make use of the Dutch health insurance and associated allowance during their studies in the Netherlands, and instead have to acquire a (more expensive) international health insurance.

Minister Van Engelshoven explained that a 1999 law prevents students from Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten from getting Dutch health insurance or the allowance. This group needs to get an international health insurance, unless they have a health insurance from the islands that also covers the Netherlands.

Students from the Caribbean countries in the kingdom who have a job on top of their studies or do a paid internship are obligated to take out Dutch health insurance, and therefore can also apply to receive a health allowance to help cover the cost.

Students from Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba can decide whether they want to remain insured under their Caribbean Netherlands health insurance, or whether they want the Dutch health insurance. If they have a job or are a paid intern, it becomes compulsory to take a Dutch health insurance, and they too can apply for a health allowance.

The minister also responded positively to the question of the two MPs whether students from the Dutch Caribbean can get a citizen service number (“burgerservicenummer” BSN) before they come to the Netherlands. Having a BSN makes it much easier for the students to register at a municipality in the Netherlands, to get a room and open a bank account.

Van Engelshoven stated that the Dutch government was willing to investigate the possibility of providing a BSN before the students leave for the Netherlands. In first instance, Dutch authorities will look at introducing the BSN in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. A number of laws will have to be adapted to replace the current ID number in the Caribbean Netherlands by a BSN system. Talks about this matter are ongoing with the public entities.

The minister further announced that the Dutch government is looking at re-introducing the so-called ‘minister positions’ specifically for medical students from the islands. Re-introducing the minister positions is a possibility to mitigate the decreasing number of medical science students from the Dutch Caribbean. Medical science studies in the Netherlands have a so-called numerus fixus, which restricts the number of new students.

According to the minister, since the elimination of the minister positions, there has been a decrease in the number of Dutch Caribbean students that starts medical science studies. Van Engelshoven assured that she would look into this matter together with State Secretary of Public health, Welfare and Sports Paul Blokhuis.

Having sufficient medical students is important to safeguard that in the future there will be enough general practitioners and medical specialists of Dutch Caribbean descent working on the islands.

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