Dutch health insurance system: sexist and discriminatory?

Alice Corona
Sep 28, 2016 · 3 min read

I’ve been sick only once in three years. Yet I paid a bit less than 100 euros per month, in the past years, for health insurance. Of course, that’s how insurance everywhere works: you pay for risk management and don’t necessarily make a gain out of it.
In principle, insurance protects especially poorer segments of the population, those who would be most effected by a sudden big expense.
Nothing more democratic than insurance, it would seem. Or not?

In the Netherlands, the mandatory basic health insurance package costs about 1100 euros a year (1). What is covered in this package is chosen by the government. And apparently, if you are a woman, you get a pretty bad deal.

Till 2015 I paid insurance without ever needing a doctor once. Then me and my partner decided to have a baby. Notice the use of “we”: we were having a baby, we were going to become parents, we were going to go through the pregnancy and birth together. Yet it was me who got pregnant. This meant that a series of medical exams were directly charged on my bank account only. The 3 month echo? About 50 euros, automatically taken from my account, of which (mysteriously) I could only claim 40 for reimbursement. The mandatory first-month blood check up? Another 50 euros that were taken from my bank and not reimbursed. Then I got a stomach flu and was throwing up like hell: another 100 euros of exams prescribed by my doctor to make sure the illness wasn’t pregnancy related. The list continues with the birth of my daughter: more than 300 euros to deliver in a birth center, because our house is so small we couldn’t imagine giving birth in there. And home birth is the only kind of birth that the government accepts to cover. After hours of contractions, in the midst of my birth-giving pain, I was offered laughing gas as a pain relief. I refused for several reason. Among which the fact that it would cost me another 500 euros.
Then the payments automatically withdrawn from my bank account continue (never from that of my partner…aka the father of the child). I’m obliged to have a nurse home and pay part of it, even if I had arranged for my mom to come and help.
Six weeks post-partum, I start thinking about contraception. I opt for the IUD. That’s another 100+ euros that I have to pay out of my own pocket.

But now I feel really discriminated. Not only maternity is not adequately covered, but neither is contraception!

Where’s women’s right to choose how to deliver? If I had a fancy house, with a big bed and a bath, I would have loved a home birth. But our bathroom is so small not even 2 people can fit in. And our bedroom has basically space only for our bed.
Isn’t this discriminatory, especially to lower-income families? Why does the government feel it can prescribe what is a “normal” birth, not our bodies and instincts?
I didn’t ask for extra exams to make sure my baby was healthy during pregnancy. Yet why did I have to pay for the basic ones prescribed by my doctor? What should I have done? Refuse basic health checks on my baby?
And why isn’t the State, by default, subsidizing women’s contraception, an essential part of family planning policies?

Me and my partner live together and share what we have. So the fact that the costs were charged to me only is less relevant. But I can imagine many cases where this could be a problem. Also, there’s something wrong even in just the principle of automatically assuming it’s the woman who has to pay for the pregnancy and birth of a child.

The Dutch government seems to put the (economic) burden of maternity and contraception solely on women.

Alice Corona

Written by

Stories with data, from the data collection (or scrape) to the data visualization. Data storytelling instructor. Currently project leader at batjo.eu

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade