ESR 6 Blog July 2021: Bilge Hasdemir

“You should go downstairs and talk with the nurse before you get your vaccination certificate signed. It looks like there is a problem. You can come here again once it is solved.”

While I was going downstairs, I was almost sure that whatever the problem that needs to be solved won’t be solved immediately. I was again at the reception desk of the health centre where I was registered earlier. The nurse seemed somehow a bit confused with the issue but eager to help.

That day I had an appointment at the health centre just to get my vaccination certificate signed. Being informed about the complexity of the Icelandic health care system and the limited private health insurance coverage, I had decided to get my compulsory regular medical examinations done in Turkey – my home country. So, this visit to the health centre was only for travel purposes, not a doctor visit nor a medical check. I was informed on the phone earlier that the stamp would cost around 2K ISK, which is around 13 Euros. However, I was told at the health centre that the signature costs 17K ISK in my case, as I am not benefiting from the Icelandic social security system (yet).

Everyone becomes a member of the Icelandic social insurance system after being legally resident in Iceland for six months. According to that I should start benefiting from the Icelandic social insurance by September 2021 as I will be resident in Iceland for 6 months then. Yet the social security system won’t be of service for me at that time as my right to Icelandic social security system, including my access to the health care, will be lost while I will be outside of Iceland for longer than 3 months on a secondment. Thus, it will be another 6 months, on my return, that I will be waiting for the same right entitlement. That being the case, I was advised at the very beginning to get private insurance for the time I am waiting to become health insured in the social insurance system, like all other foreign citizens from countries outside EU or EFTA applying for a residence permit in Iceland. Unfortunately, most health insurances of such type, the ones usually seem purposeful for visa & residence permit application only, have very limited offers and do not cover as many services as social insurance does. That is to say, the insurance usually pays only a little portion or none, and the insured person is left holding the bill. And mostly there is no price transparency or clear guideline on the limit of compensations so it is usually quite difficult to guess the final cost you might end up paying. I must say that navigating health insurance coverage is never an easy or a pleasant task. Besides, being under very limited health insurance coverage, even temporarily only for 6 months, could be enough to make you feel insecure and unsafe. Feeling insecure about becoming sick in a time of a global pandemic….

I left the health centre without getting a stamp; in other words, without solving the problem as the doctor called it. The problem is much more complex than it sounds.

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