Covid-19 vaccination is not accessible to everyone in Slovakia.
A 75-year-old Iranian who has been residing in Slovakia since 2016 has learned this the hard way.
Soon after his age group, 75+, became eligible for the Covid-19 jab in January, he registered for vaccination. Since the appointments for vaccination are scarce and fast to fill online in Bratislava where he lives, he travelled to the western-Slovak town of Malacky, about 40 km from Bratislava.
The man wished to remain anonymous but The Slovak Spectator editorial knows his name. He explained he duly registered through the NCZI.sk registration form, but the vaccination centre in Malacky Hospital refused to vaccinate him.
He did not have the necessary health insurance, the hospital explained to The Slovak Spectator.
This came as a surprise to the man and his family, as he is paying a health insurance fee. The problem is his insurance is not the public health insurance provided by the state-run or one of the two private health insurers. His is so-called commercial health insurance, often the only option for foreigners in Slovakia who are not entitled to public health insurance for some reason.
Commercial insurance covers basic health care, but not the Covid-19 vaccine.
“From the epidemiological point of view it is absurd that we have people who live in Slovakia, are entitled to the vaccine [in the vaccination strategy], but will not be vaccinated as they are not subject to public health care,” said human rights lawyer Zuzana Števulová, a member of the non-parliamentary Progressive Slovakia who has been dealing with the problem of Covid vaccination accessibility to some groups of foreigners based on their health insurance.
“All elderly people are threatened the same way [with Covid-19], regardless of whether they are or aren’t insured in the public health system.”
Everyone has to be insured
Every foreigner living in Slovakia is obliged to have health insurance. People who work in the country - as employees or self-employed - pay the monthly payroll taxes, or premiums for the public health system just like Slovak citizens. The levies are docked from their gross salaries every month, and are paid to the state-run Všeobecná Zdravotná Poisťovňa, or the private Union or Dôvera health insurers, per choice of the insuree.
But there is a group of people not entitled to public insurance, even if they wanted to pay for it on their own. This includes people who gained a residence permit for the purpose of doing business or family reunion.