MPs pass bill requiring long-term residents to use state health insurance

Foreigners with long-term residency will have to insure themselves exclusively with the state health insurance company VZP for a period of five years, according to a bill passed by the Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday, which will now be sent to the president for signature. Critics say that the change in legislation will provide VZP with an exclusive monopoly.

The bill has been the subject of heated debate among experts for some time. Originally passed in June, the amendment to the current law on foreign residency in the Czech Republic received criticism from leading institutions such as the Health Ministry, the Czech Insurance Association and the Chamber of Industry. It was then sent back by the Senate.

VZP | Photo: Tomáš Adamec,  Czech Radio

The upper-house of Parliament proposed to merely oblige foreigners to register whether they have health insurance. However, this version of the amendment did not pass through the Chamber of Deputies, with the majority of MPs instead choosing to vote in favour of the original version of the bill, which will now by-pass the Senate.

If the president chooses to sign the bill it will mean that foreigners with long-term residency will have to insure themselves with the state health insurer VZP. The choice of commercial health insurance will be available, but only if they pick the sister company of VZP for the first five years. Thereafter, it will also be possible to get health insurance from other companies.

František Kopřiva | Photo: Aktron,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC0 1.0 DEED

The government ANO and Social Democrat party MPs voted in favour of the original bill, supported by the Communists and the Freedom and Direct Democracy party. Meanwhile, the Pirate Party and the centre-right opposition supported the Senate amendment.

Pirate Party MP František Kopřiva explained their position.

“Introducing this monopoly would not just be in violation of EU rules, but would also place the Czech Republic under threat of legal action for breaching EU law as well as expose it to the risk of sanctions and compensation payments to private insurance companies.”

ANO MP and deputy chairman of the Health Committee Miloslav Janulík then defended the original proposal, saying that the criticism was unfounded.

Miloslav Janulík | Photo: BV,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 3.0

“It is true that the raw original of this amendment proposal could be attacked for granting monopoly rights. However, the issue was then discussed with the Office for the Protection of Competition and the bill was amended to avoid such an interpretation.”

The original proposal was then passed with 108 votes in favour to 42 votes against.

The amendment was originally proposed in order to make the current Czech law adhere to new EU regulation on the strengthening the security of identity cards and of residence documents issued to EU citizens and their family members, which will start applying from August 2.