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St. Maarten pensioners being asked to pay huge health care cost backlog

MONDAY, 21 JANUARY 2013

PHILIPSBURG–Former civil servants and teachers who have gone on retirement are now being asked by the Curaçao-based APNA pension fund to pay back a huge backlog of health care expenses, even though they were not billed for these expenses in the past.

The cost being requested is the 10 per cent health care cost former civil servants and teachers who were insured under FZOG are required to pay.

Marga Hart, one of the affected pensioners, received a letter in Papiamentu dated mid-December, two weeks ago from the Curaçao-based APNA pension fund, telling her she owed a NAf. 1,000 backlog in health care cost from 2007 to 2012. APNA said it would deduct NAf. 80 each month from Hart’s NAf. 670 monthly pension, from which a health care premium of NAf. 35.75 already is being deducted.

Hart said she was aware of some persons who were being asked to pay back thousands of guilders. She said it was not clear at all what would happen now, as APNA no longer covers St. Maarten pensioners. Since St. Maarten became a country within the Dutch Kingdom in 2010, pensioners now fall under the APS pension fund.

When Hart contacted APNA in Curaçao, she was told that all former APNA, now APS, pensioners would receive a similar letter.

“They will start deducting from pensions paid by APNA by the end of February. FZOG never sent pensioners an overview of their medical cost or deducted the 10 per cent since 2005, or maybe earlier; 2005 and 2006 have become obsolete and they will only charge from 2007 until 2012.

“For many pensioners, the amount to be repaid will run into the thousands, as there is no ceiling for medical cost and over the years the amount has accumulated. Moreover, it has become impossible to check if the medical cost on the overview that was included has really been made,” she said.

“They didn’t even have the decency to add a letter in Dutch/English, so pensioners have to guess what exactly is in the letter. The lady I spoke to was also not aware that pensioners in St. Maarten no longer fall under APNA, but under APS.”
Hart said she and other pensioners had not been receiving any information about the 10 per cent health care cost since she retired in 2005. They never were billed after visiting a hospital or doctor and they never were requested to pay the 10 per cent.

“When I still worked, I used to receive a résumé once each year and the money would be deducted from my next salary. I never had a high bill, so this never was a problem, but it was for some of my colleagues. I think there was some arrangement with monthly deductions. I don’t know if pensioners got this résumé before 2005 as well,” Hart said.
“Obviously no pensioner will ever be able to refund the cost after, for example, an expensive operation or cancer treatment, and there won’t be many pensioners who get the highest pension as mentioned on the sheet.
“So, if you have high medical cost, they would probably deduct the money from your pension until you die, as the maximum per month is NAf. 160, and that only for pensions over NAf. 2,000.”

She expressed hope that the union representing pensioners and APS would “stand up” for them. “Obviously Curaçao is in need of money, but why do we have to suffer? The little more money we just got will be taken away and for many, much more than that,” she said.

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