Monday, February 2, 2009

Aukje de Vries' Diary Day 15

I begin the day with a few phone calls. One of them to the SVB, the Social Insurance Bank, the agency which pays out our State Pension. They have not yet sent me their specification for 2009 and I am curious. I am told it can come any day, they are working on it, but the person who answers the phone gives me an advice, of which I cannot understand whether this would work for me. I’ll have to ask my consultant. All these regulations are so complicated.

Normally I don’t watch television in the afternoon but both Esther and Martje, my friend in Rotterdam, have told me about a broadcast on long-term care in which they think I will be interested. They saw it a few days ago and it will be repeated. Yes, indeed, I am glad they told me. It is about the CAK. The CAK is the Central Administration Office. One of the tasks of the CAK is to deal with the co-payments people have to make for their long-term care. The CAK figures out how much each user has to pay and they send the invoices. For years there have been complaints about this agency, and it seems that not much has improved. In the programme a number of people tell about their problems. The Junior Minister is also in the programme. Basically one can say that the problems fall into two categories: one is that it is very difficult to reach the CAK, the telephone is not answered, they do not call back when they have promised to do so, they do not give the information that is needed and they are very unfriendly towards the callers. The other is that the CAK makes many mistakes and charges some users of ltc much higher co-payments than they believe they are due. Some of these complainers are desperate, because quite often the conflict is about large amounts of money, and in some cases it takes years before the matter is settled. The Junior Minister, very charmingly, says she does what she can to enable the CAK to carry out its tasks properly. They were given more personnel there has been extra training for the personnel, and most difficult cases have received extra attention and have been resolved, except some 200 cases. Obviously some of them are in the programme. The Junior Minister keeps telling that she does her best to solve the problems, but refers only to the user unfriendliness of the CAK. She also asks people to understand that the CAK has a very difficult task: in order to figure out the amounts users of ltc have to pay the CAK has to receive data from no less than 5 different agencies: internal revenue, municipalities, health care insurers, care offices (they are part of the insurance system) and care providers. In my opinion this is the basic problem: the system has become so complicated that it is impossible to make it work properly. The interviewer tries: five different sources, isn’t that a bit too many? But very adroitly she brings the discussion back to her efforts to make the CAK more user-friendly. The real problem is not discussed.

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