Health Insurance

12 May

Today we completed our third week in Barcelona, and accomplished one of the major hurdles of establishing residency.  Rob is now an official resident of Spain as of Wednesday!  This opens quite a few doors to us that were previously closed.  As soon as that was done, we immediately completed the process of setting up a bank account and mobile phone contract, which had in turn been making our lives rather difficult.

And most importantly, I can now move ahead with my own application to be a resident as being married to a resident.  I couldn’t even make an appointment to apply until Rob had his NIE.   I had been warned that it can take several weeks to get an appointment, so I was pleasantly surprised that there were appointments available next week!  I may not have all the documents required, but at least I’ll have more information about what else I need to gather.

The major holdup in Rob getting his NIE was obtaining private health insurance.  The requirement for NIE as of 2012 is to either provide a work contract or show that you have at least €6000 in the bank and private health insurance with coverage equal to, if not better than, the national heath insurance.  Of course I couldn’t find any information that detailed what exactly that means to them.  There is also inconsistency regarding how it’s enforced, or whether it’s enforced at all, but since Barcelona is a large city, and we’re in a bit of a time crunch, I didn’t want to take any chances that might slow down the process.  So I did a bit of reading to find out what the national health plan offers.  Neither dental nor vision are covered, but pharmacy and pretty much everything else is, including preexisting health conditions.  No private insurer, even here, will cover preexisting conditions from the start, so I just had to assume that wasn’t required.

After doing some shopping online and getting quotes from several international insurance companies, we decided to go with a Spanish insurer, Sanitas.  It was much cheaper than the international companies, and worlds cheaper than any U.S. health insurance plan.  The more fully featured plans didn’t have any copay or deductible, and were still under € 100/person/month.   We chose one of the lower-end plans, Sanitas Mas Salud (More Health) Con Copago, and added on pharmacy for € 4/month/person to make sure it was considered comparable to the national health plan.

In total, we made 4 attempts to get it, each time being informed of additional requirements for documenting the plan.  In addition, we had fun learning all the ins and outs of Spanish bureaucracy:

  1. Bring copies of everything.  We tried to show them the coverage as it’s outlined on the Santas website, but they wanted a hard copy.
  2. The first thing you do when you arrive is take a number to talk to the person who assigns another number to you.  Really.
  3. No one will ever give you complete information about what is required.  It is guaranteed to take at least two attempts.  For return visitors, they have a third numbering system.
  4. Each time you come back, you’re assigned to a staff person randomly, and often get someone different than your previous visit.  It doesn’t matter if you now meet the requirements the previous person stated; this new person will have additional requirements that you do not meet.  I don’t think that any of them are using different requirements, it’s just that no one told us *everything* that is required, and how it should be provided.  I think it’s done intentionally as a litmus test to see if you’re able to jump through the hoops to become a resident.

And for those who might be in the same situation and are looking for more details about what is required for the health insurance:

  1. The coverage needs to have started already.  They would not accept a plan that started 2 days afterward.
  2. The documentation needs to show: (a) the applicant’s name, (b) what the coverage is, and (c) both the start date and duration of the policy (most plans are annual); they wanted to make sure that it lasted longer than just a month or two.   (This is unfortunate because Rob plans on registering as self-employed, which allows him to pay into the system and in exchange, we both would be able to sign up for national healthcare.  But because he hadn’t registered yet (and couldn’t until he had a NIE), we were forced to commit to a year’s worth of private insurance.  We will probably keep it anyway as supplemental insurance even after he’s registered.)  The document that we used for this was the Condiciones Particulares of our policy, which we were able to request in PDF format before the physical copy arrived in the mail with our new cards, allowing us to apply sooner.
  3. While they never gave us a checklist of what they’re looking for as far as coverage, they accepted our plan, so if you’re in the same boat, this plan is pretty cheap and meets the requirements.  A plan requiring copay is acceptable, even though the national plan doesn’t require it.

Next week, I go to a different office to start my application process as a non-EU citizen.  With this experience I’m prepared to be turned away, yet again.

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