The government does not want to extend the energy price ceiling for chronically ill people with high energy bills. They have to make do with the existing jars. But there is not enough money in these jars for this group. This is what interest organizations tell NU.nl. Several municipalities confirm this picture.
These are chronically ill people who are dependent on certain equipment, such as an electric wheelchair or an oxygen or dialysis machine. Or people who incur high heating or air conditioning costs because they cannot regulate their body temperature properly.
As a result, some patients use twice as much energy on their own as the average family. A family of four now spends around 550 euros a month on gas, water and electricity. For a kidney patient who does dialysis at home, an average of 240 euros is added per month.
People with the most severe disabilities risk incurring the highest costs. “It is unacceptable,” says director Illya Soffer of Elke(in), an umbrella organization to which 250 patient associations are affiliated. “These people have often lived around subsistence level for years. For them, there are opportunities to save. Many already use the food bank.”
Several municipalities call jars inadequate
But there will be no exception to the price cap for energy. During the general political deliberations, Prime Minister Mark Rutte explained that people with disabilities or chronic illnesses can claim the so-called special help. To qualify, you must earn no more than 120 percent of the minimum wage. There is also an energy supplement for minimum requirements.
Normally, a medical certificate from the general practitioner is required for special assistance, but with the current energy prices there is an exception to this, according to the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and Social Affairs.
A tour of Dutch municipalities shows that at least ten municipalities do not have sufficient financial resources to meet the needs of this group. “The municipality does not have the financial resources to take over all the increasing burdens of chronically ill residents,” says a spokesman for Midden-Groningen municipality.
‘Special assistance provides no security’
For reasons of privacy, many municipalities do not keep track of whether persons applying for special assistance or other allowances have a chronic illness or disability. Nevertheless, at least fifteen municipalities state that this group is sometimes omitted. In some worrying cases, adaptation is possible. Soffer is critical: “You can go to the municipality, but it has limited resources. The special assistance therefore provides no security.”
A number of municipalities say they will raise the income limit for social assistance or financial assistance to 130 percent of the minimum wage. “In this way, more people with a chronic illness or disability can make use of subsidies,” says a spokesperson for the municipality of Amsterdam.
More people will be able to receive health services next year
But there is a glimmer on the horizon: Next year, 350,000 extra people will be eligible for the health benefit. In addition, this supplement increases by more than 400 euros on an annual basis. A spokesman for VWS also says that the cabinet is in consultation with health insurance companies in the Netherlands to increase the electricity reimbursement for the chronically ill. Everyone emphasizes that it only makes sense if that fee applies to all equipment. Now there is only a subsidy for ventilators.
Sabah Ziani, adviser at the Dutch Kidney Patients’ Association, says it would help if the application for grants was made easier. Many patients say it is too difficult, raising the threshold even higher. Several municipalities also state that it is difficult to reach the minimum income level with a chronic illness. “Government can play a bigger role in that,” Ziani says.