BEFORE 2021 ENDS …
To do before 2021 ends
Before 2021 ends, there are a few things you might want to do to wrap up the year nicely. As usual, I have made a long, but not exhaustive list with tips & tricks.
When 2020 was almost over, we wished for a Covid-free 2021. Well….. 2022 can only be better, right?
Think about the below situations, whether they apply to your family.
Things to do before the year ends:
- Switch health insurance provider
- Check your childcare benefits
- What else will change in 2021? (other benefits and taxes, for example)
I have also included a Corona update – December 2021.
SWITCH HEALTH INSURANCE PROVIDER
In the Netherlands everyone is obliged to have health care insurance (=zorgverzekering).
January 1st is one of the rare occasions that you may switch to a different health insurance provider. In case you were wondering, this is why you are seeing so many ads for health insurances in this period.
Compare insurance companies
There are many websites where you can compare the insurances, for example the Consumentenbond. This is probably one of the most objective websites. The best offer depends on your personal situation, your family composition, and what type of care you need.
Health insurance consists of three parts: basic insurance (=basisverzekering), the optional additional insurance (=aanvullende verzekering), and dental insurance (=tandheelkundige zorg).
The government has decided on the contents of the basic insurance, and they are the same for every insurance company. The average monthly payment for the basic insurance is €125.75. Children are covered for free through the health insurance of their parents.
There are various additional insurance packages that offer you more coverage, for a higher monthly fee. The insurance companies establish the contents of these packages and the corresponding fees themselves. You will need the additional insurance if, for example, your child needs braces, you are interested in alternative healthcare, or in additional sessions of physical therapy, a more extensive child birth package, or travel vaccines.
Eigen risico (own risk)
You’ll also hear about insurance companies talk about the ‘eigen risico’ (own risk). The own risk of 385 euros has been decided by the government and is the same for every basic insurance. This means that you have to pay the first €385 of your health care consumption yourself. For some treatments, like the GP, midwife, and dentist for children up to 18yo, the own risk doesn’t apply (they are always covered).
If you don’t make much use of health care, you’ll only have to pay parts of the own risk. If you only declare, for example, 150 euros on health care; you pay this 150 euros and not the 385 euros. On top of that you could choose for a higher voluntary own risk (=vrijwillig eigen risico), which will lower your monthly fee.
Most insurance companies offer the possibility to spread the payments of the eigen risico over the year (=gespreid betalen), so you don’t have to pay 385 euros at once.
Some treatments you have to pay partly yourself (=eigen bijdrage). For example, some insurances only cover max. 40 euros per person per day for alternative medicine. The rest of the costs you’ll have to pay yourself.
Sometimes you can get a collective discount (=collectiviteitskorting) through your employer or (charity) organization.
Various policy options
Then you also have the choice between a restitutiepolis, a naturapolis, a combinatiepolis, and budgetpolis.
Of these four insurances, the restitutiepolis is most expensive, but it gives you the freedom to select the health care provider or hospital of your preference.
The naturapolis is cheaper, but you can only go to those health care providers with which your insurance company has a contract – you would like to check this beforehand.
The budgetpolis is the cheapest of the three, but here your options for hospitals and other health care providers are much more limited, and you’ll have to arrange most insurance issues online.
The combinatiepolis is a combination of the naturapolis and the restitutiepolis.
Please note: in case of emergency you can always go to any hospital.
People with a lower income may qualify for ‘zorgtoeslag’; a contribution towards the costs for health care.
CHECK YOUR CHILDCARE BENEFITS (=kinderopvangtoeslag)
When both parents work, or follow an official study, or when a single parent works/studies, you can most likely apply for a tax rebate for childcare.
If you already receive this tax rebate, don’t forget to inform the tax office (=Belastingdienst) of any changes in your childcare situation. Think new hourly fees in 2022, more/less hours your child will spend at daycare, switch to after-school care (=BSO), and also any expected changes in your household income.
If you provide the tax office with the correct information beforehand, you won’t risk paying back parts of the rebate at the end of the year. You can make your changes (wijzigingen) on the website of the Belastingdienst. Login with your DigId. You could also install the Kinderopvangtoeslag app on your phone.
On the website of the Belastingdienst you can make a trial calculation of how much rebate you could expect each month. The number of hours that you are entitled to daycare support also depends on the number of hours that you (and your partner) work. You multiply the number of hours that the least working parent works by 140% for daycare, and from 2022, also 140% for after-school care (BSO) (this used to be 70%, and is a huge improvement for, for example, parents who work in night shifts, or those who have long commuting times). The maximum amount of hours for the rebate is 230 daycare hours per month.
The rebate is based on a maximum hourly fee. In 2022, this is €8.50 per hour for daycare, €7.31 for after-school care, and €6.52 for care provided by a guest parent (gastouder). This means that, if the childcare organization charges a higher amount per hour, the parents have to pay the difference in price themselves.
Height of the rebate
In the table on the bottom of this page, you can get an idea of how much money you’ll get back. The rebate is higher for parents who have two or more children who attend childcare. Please note that by ‘first child’ they mean the child who is in childcare for the most hours per week, and not necessarily the oldest child.
The parents in the lowest income brackets get 96% of the daycare costs back for their 1st child, and also 96% for their 2nd and further children. The parents with the highest incomes get 33.3% back for their 1st child, and 67.1% for their other children. There are in total about 70 income brackets with each their own return percentage.
Please note that for the lunchtime supervision at your child’s primary school (Tussenschoolse opvang – tso), the tax rebate does not apply.
The coalition agreement of the new cabinet states that before 2025, they aim to provide (almost) free childcare to all children, or at least to the children of working parents. The details aren’t clear yet. This will hugely simplify this very complicate rebate system.
In this Doodly video I explain the various childcare options.
The Consumentenbond (the national consumers’ organization) also provides a lot of reliable information about the various tax rebates.
Kinderbijslag (child benefit):
All parents who pay taxes in the Netherlands, receive an amount of money to cover some of the costs related to having a child. Kinderbijslag is the same amount for everyone, and is not dependent on the parent’s income. Kinderbijslag is paid every quarter by the SVB.
When you register with the municipality upon your arrival in the Netherlands, they will automatically send a notification to the SVB. In case this goes wrong, you can also claim it here (in English).
This is what you can expect (slightly more than past year):
|Age of child||Amount of allowance per 3 months, per child|
|0 – 5 years old||€ 224.87|
|6 – 11 years old||€ 273.05|
|12 – 17 years old||€ 321.24|
Parents whose children have higher (medical) costs can get higher child benefits.
Parents who have a lower income, will get an additional allowance, the Kindgebonden budget.
WHAT ELSE WILL CHANGE IN 2022?
Some other things might change in your situation. Just a few examples:
- The minimum wage will increase.
- For people with a higher income, the mortgage interest deduction will decrease. For lower-income earners, the deduction will stay the same.
- In more situations, people with a lower income may apply for housing benefits.
- The labour tax credit (arbeidskorting) will increase, which means a discount on your income tax when you are employed.
- Work places are not allowed to have smoking areas anymore, and cigarette vending machines will be banned.
- The board of directors and the management top of bigger companies need to consist of at least one thirds of females.
- Parents who have lost their children to stillbirth or neonatal death, can officially register their children in the Personal Records Database (BRP). From January 1st, the only requirement is that the parents live in the Netherlands when making their request for registration. It doesn’t matter anymore in what year their child died, or in which country they lived when the child was born.
- Newcomers who need to go through the naturalisation process (inburgering), are required to obtain a higher level of Dutch language proficiency than before. They may now combine their inburgering with (volunteer) work or an internship. The idea is to prepare them as soon as possible for active participation to society.
- Because of the current higher energy tariffs, the energy taxes will decrease.
- Companies get bigger discounts when they invest in environmental-friendly solutions.
- Everyone is obliged to have an address. Municipalities are required to provide an address to homeless people, through which they can apply for benefits and health care.
- The new Cabinet is considering creating the position of Chief Medical Officer, who serves to advise and lead a team of medical experts on matters of public health importance, especially related to global pandemics and the coordination of resources.
CORONA UPDATE – December 2021
Unfortunately, the pandemic won’t just disappear when the clock strikes 12 on December 31st.
What is the current situation like? The latest numbers are gathered in the Corona dashboard:
Between December 21st and 28th, on average 12,057 people in the Netherlands tested positive for COVID-19 per day. Of all tests administered by the GGD, 23.4% turned out to be positive.
The average number of virus particles per 100,000 inhabitants that are measured in thetesting samples of wastewater collected at wastewater treatment plants is also going up.
The number of people infected by one infectious person (the Reproduction number) is currently 0.9.
In total, 1,471 people with COVID-19 currently occupy a hospital bed, of which 521 on the ICU.
In the best case scenario, there are in total 1350 ICU beds (with enough staff) available in the Netherlands.
Apart from the limited availability of hospital staff, this is also a problem for many people who need planned hospital care. They have often seen their treatment delayed many times because of urgent Covid care to other patients. The average stay of a Covid patient at the ICU is three weeks, while other patients, for example to recover from heart surgery, only need an ICU bed for one night. This means that, in order to admit one Covid patient, the hospitals need to cancel about 15 heart surgeries.
Many doctors and nurses have burned-out since the beginning of the pandemic, or quit their job because of the high pressure. Many health care workers also contracted (Long) Covid themselves, especially in the period before they could get vaccinated. Some new staff has been trained, but since the trajectory to become an ICU-nurse takes 18 months, this isn’t a short-term solution.
The new coalition agreement also stated that they will invest a lot of extra money in health care, and all the medical professionals have received a bonus in the past year.
It recently turned out that some of the hospital directors have kept this money to themselves, though, or applied for more bonuses than people on their payroll. Partly due to this fraud, the government has paid more than 800 million euros more than budgeted for these bonuses. For this reason, the bonus in 2021 was lower than in 2020.
Thousands of people still have Covid symptoms many months after testing positive. Most common symptoms are chronic tiredness, concentration issues, shortness of breath, long-term loss of smell and/or taste, depressions, brain fog, and muscle pain. For many of these people this has a serious impact on their work and overall wellbeing.
Surprisingly, many of the people with long Covid symptoms haven’t been sick enough to be admitted at the hospital. Even more surprisingly, many of these people are still young and reported to be healthy before their positive Covid test.
The FNV trade union has opened a hotline for health care workers who suffer from long-Covid (for both members and non-members). They found that 95% of the workers who reported to suffer from LongCovid works in a hospital, nursery home, or home care.
Around 75 Covid-related deaths are reported per day. Many of these people have died earlier than on the day they were reported. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 20,802 Covid-deaths have been reported,but not all deceased have been tested beforehand, especially not in the beginning when the tests were scarce.The excess mortality is around 950 per week, affecting all age groups.
While the national numbers have shown a decline over the past weeks, in Amsterdam the number of positive tests has increased by 18%. The research labs estimate that close to 60% of the positive tests in Amsterdam are linked to the new Omicron variant.
More and more research shows that most people get less sick after contracting the Omicron vs. the Delta variant, so hopefully this doesn’t mean bad news for the hospitals, and can thing open up again soon.
Currently, in the Netherlands, 85.9% of all people of 18 years and older are fully vaccinated, and 89% has had at least one dose. 20.9% of all people has had a booster so far, especially the older and vulnerable people and the health care workers.
Effectiveness of vaccines
The effectiveness of the vaccines (VE) over the past 8 weeks was 89% protection against hospitalization, and 95% against ICU-admission. For people aged 70+, the protection against hospitalization is slightly lower (81%).
In the period between December 1st and 21st, 54% of the ICU patients aged 70+ was fully vaccinated, while 22% of the patients between ages 12 and 69 were fully vaccinated.
It has taken a while, but finally the booster vaccines are widely administered now. From today (29 December) all people born in 1984 or earlier can make an appointment for the booster vaccine. Go to https://coronatest.nl (also in English). There has to be at least 3 months in between your 2nd vaccine or positive Covid test.
Current corona measures
Sadly, the Netherlands is still in lockdown to prevent the highly contagious Omicron variant from spreading. This means that the non-essential stores are closed, as well as bars & restaurants, museums, cinemas, indoor sports facilities, schools, after-school care facilities, hairdressers, (non-medical) specialists, and many more places where people gather.
The essential stores like supermarkets and drug stores are still open until 8 pm the latest. The same applies to libraries, pharmacies, gas stations, notary and lawyer offices, and driving schools.
You may still order ‘non-essential’ products online and collect them at the entrance of the store, and food delivery and pick-up are still possible too.
Outdoor sports are still allowed, however, from age 18, only two people are allowed within 1.5 meters distance from each other (which makes many sports impossible to practise). Children under 18 are allowed to play all sports outside and may organize tournaments at their own club. Swimming classes may still continue too. Professional sports games may still take place, but without an audience.
People are only allowed to receive a maximum of two guests per day. For New Year’s Eve, as an exception, a maximum of 4 guests applies. Children up to 12 years old are excluded from this rule.
Everyone of age 13 or older needs to wear a face mask inside of stores and public buildings, as well as on public transport. Since primary and secondary school students take a big chunk of the positive cases, children from group 6 (age 9) onwards also have to wear face masks in the school hallways and other rooms where they meet children from different classes. They can take off their masks in the classroom and when playing outside. These children are also advised to take a self test (at home) twice per week. The government has sent thousands of self tests to the schools to distribute among their students.
Duration of lockdown
This lockdown will last at least until 14 January, 2022. On January 3rd, the Cabinet will take a decision about re-opening the schools from January 10th. The Amsterdam school boards have already decided that, no matter what, all group 8 pupils will go to school in person then.
Also this year, to take the pressure off the already overcrowded hospitals and ICUs, fireworks are forbidden on NYE.
Do you have Covid symptoms and do you need to get tested? Call the GGD in your municipality asap. This is the testing info for Amsterdam.
On the New2NL website you can also watch webinars on the Dutch education system in times of Corona.
Relief and recovery packages
The government has created various relief and recovery packages for businesses and individuals who are struggling with a loss of income or revenue due to Covid. To many companies and small business owners, which were forced to close again because of the lockdown, the government is paying various benefits. More information you can find on this government page.
Partly due to these recovery packages, the unemployment rate in the Netherlands has been declining over the past year. With an employment rate of 3.1% of the total work force, unemployment is at one of the lowest points over the past decade. Also the number of bankruptcies was much lower in 2021 compared to 2020 and 2019.
This doesn’t mean, though, that everything is going well. A lot of restaurants, bars, travel agencies, museums, concert venues, festivals, and other public places are seriously struggling to make ends meet, and to keep their spirits up.
Because of the pandemic and the measures to prevent the spread, many people suffer from loneliness, depression or anxiety. On the website of GGZ Totaal, an independent online magazine about mental health care, you can find an overview of organizations you could call for help. Some of them offer free support, and are also available online.
Contribution towards costs related to working from home
From January 1st, employers may give their employees a maximum of 2 euros per day as a contribution towards the additional costs for things like water, electricity, and coffee while working from home. The employees don’t need to pay taxes over this contribution.
Things to do
On the website of I Amsterdam you can find plenty of things you can still do these days in Amsterdam (in English). For example, the Amsterdam Light Festival walk with the best pieces of light art of the past 10 years. Many local upper primary students (including our oldest son) have contributed as well. They made this statue of the Little Match Girl, for which they learned about poverty among children.
Most restaurants have takeaway menus -some of them being very fancy. Through Support Your Locals you can buy high quality local ingredients, which the suppliers can’t sell to the bars and restaurants at the moment.
If you want to end 2021 on a positive note, watch this three-minute video by Amsterdam Sinfonietta. It is a compilation of all the online and in-person concerns they gave in 2021. As many other parties working in the cultural sector, they had to close for many months of the past year. They have re-invented themselves and still gave great performances.
Dutch Christmas Quiz
Have you recently moved to the Netherlands? How much do you already know about the Dutch Christmas celebrations?
Take the Dutch Christmas quiz now, and win one of the beautiful prizes.
STAY HEALTHY AND SAFE AND SEE YOU IN 2022!