Achmea initiates arbitration against Slovakia over health-insurer plan

Slovakia will be subject to further arbitration proceedings after the government on Wednesday, February 6, received a notice from Dutch insurance company Achmea – the owner of Slovak health-insurer Union – that it is taking action. The proceedings have been initiated in reaction to the government's plans to merge all three of Slovakia’s current health insurers (including a second private insurer, Dôvera, and the state-run Všeobecná Zdravotná Poisťovňa) into a single company, even if it has to expropriate the two private operators.

Slovakia will be subject to further arbitration proceedings after the government on Wednesday, February 6, received a notice from Dutch insurance company Achmea – the owner of Slovak health-insurer Union – that it is taking action. The proceedings have been initiated in reaction to the government's plans to merge all three of Slovakia’s current health insurers (including a second private insurer, Dôvera, and the state-run Všeobecná Zdravotná Poisťovňa) into a single company, even if it has to expropriate the two private operators.

According to the government, the merger should be carried out regardless of whether or not the state comes to an agreement with the shareholders of the two private health insurers. The deadline for a deal has been set as January 2014. If no agreement is reached, the state plans to initiate expropriation that would result in a single state-run facility as of July 2014.

Achmea wants to head off the risk of expropriation by initiating the present proceedings. "Achmea has initiated arbitration as a reaction to Slovakia's decision to expropriate Achmea's investment in Union,” said Achmea spokesman Bert Rensen, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “We're planning to maintain the investment and, according to our opinion, the planned expropriation isn't in the public interest. It isn't subject to a proper legal process and it's discriminatory."

According to him, the government's plan is in contravention of a bilateral agreement between Slovakia and the Netherlands. The Dutch company has already selected its arbiter and Slovakia now has two months to find one. The two arbiters will then choose an independent judge.

The current action is not the first dispute between the Slovak government and Achmea. In December 2012, the International Arbitration Court ruled in Achmea's favour in a long-running case involving an earlier ban on health-insurers retaining their profits. According to the ruling, Slovakia should pay millions of euros to the company in compensation, as well as court costs. Slovakia has refused to pay and has instead sought to file an appeal.

Source: TASR

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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