All change in 2005
January 1 has ushered in several important legal changes in the Netherlands. Failure to adjust to the new situation could cost you dearly, warns Cormac Mac Ruairi.
Have you got the stamp
A whole lot of rules and regulations changed after midnight on 31 December. Here is a summary of the most important ones.
Who goes there?
The most basic change is the introduction of the national identity law. Within hours of the introduction of the identificatieplicht (identity obligation), three young men in Almelo were fined when they could not produce identification when police stopped the car they were travelling in.
Later two cyclists in Groningen were stopped for not having lights on their bikes. They each had to pay a EUR 25 for that offence, and a further EUR 50 each for not carrying ID.
Under the new law, people aged 14 and above must be able to provide acceptable ID if asked by police. Valid forms of identification are a valid passport, Dutch or European ID card, or residence permit. In some cases, but not all, a valid Dutch driver's license will do.
Apart from the police, immigration, customs or tax officials, forest rangers, labour and environmental inspectors, and local government officials can, in some cases, ask you to furnish valid ID.
The law is intended to increase security and public safety in the Netherlands.
Those of us who tend to snore, people with lazy eyes or too-prominent 'Prince Charles' ears lost the chance of having corrective treatments paid for by the basic health insurance package, or Ziekenfonds.
Cosmetic breast enhancements are out of the Ziekenfonds — sorry, girls...and guys. Circumcision and operations to reverse sterilisation also got the chop from Ziekenfonds cover.
The government argues that if a treatment or operation is not a pressing medical need, the public purse should not be paying for it. People on a low income should be be able to claim some money back for medical expenses from the tax office.
If you have private health insurance, you should check with your provider to see if some or all of these treatments are still covered.
The changes in health insurance aren't all bad news though.
From 1 January, dietary advice plans (a total of 4 sessions per year) are covered under Ziekenfonds. Some medications — calcium pills, laxatives, allergy, indigestion and anti-diarrhoea pills — make a welcome comeback for chronic suffers. Chronic is defined as having to take the medication for six months or longer.
The most fundamental change for the health insurance is the introduction of a no-claims mechanism. People who claim less than EUR 250 annually in medical costs will be repaid the unspent amount at the end of the year. Unfortunately, annual premiums will rise by EUR 70 to pay for this generosity.
Claims for people under the age of 18, obstetrics and maternity care will not be counted under the no-claims system.
Return to sender
Expats using snail mail to keep friends and family informed about life in the Netherlands face higher postage costs. Priority letters within Europe weighing 20 grammes or less now cost 65 cents, while post weighing 20-50 grammes costs EUR 1.30. Priority sending similar items outside Europe costs 81 cents and EUR 1.62.
Snipping the Zalmsnip