State Turning Future Pensioners into Debtors: Authorities Struggle to Process Pensions

The Czech Social Security Administration has been unable to grant pensions for several months, leaving twenty-two thousand people waiting more than three months since submitting their applications. This period exceeds the legal deadline within which the office should have decided. In the meantime, these individuals are urging insurance companies to pay for payment of their health insurance.

According to Jitka Drmolová, a spokesperson for the administration, “There are currently 22,000 applications for old-age pensions pending for over 90 days, of which 18,000 are applications for early old-age pensions.”

Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Marian Jurečka (KDU-ČSL), admitted that the situation would remain tense for several more weeks. “There are six issues involved. Since last year, we have had two regular pension adjustments, two great adjustments, and early retirements and child-rearing. Despite personnel reinforcements, the workload on officials has increased,” explained Jurečka.

He added, “It bothers me that we could not pay pensions on time. However, we can resume payments within a few weeks within the legal deadlines.”

Jurečka emphasized the challenges in resolving the issue promptly, stating, “We cannot simply input the changes into the software and let it generate and distribute adjustment notifications or rulings. A significant amount of specialized human work is involved, which is why we encountered these difficulties, for which I apologize.”

The surge in applications is primarily due to early retirements. According to Drmolová, future pension applicants will decrease gradually over the next few months. She remarked, “This apparent shift represents an entire generation of future pensioners who took advantage of the unusual circumstances to calculate their pensions several months before leaving the labor market.”

Furthermore, individuals have been struggling to make appointments through the social security website to submit their pension applications in person. Some have reported waiting for weeks without success. Frustrated seniors, such as one from the Prague-West district, expressed their concerns, saying, “They told me to try every Monday, but I’ve tried four times in a row without success. Whenever a free slot appears, someone else beats me to it. I need to arrange my widow’s pension.”

People have also voiced their grievances about the slow pace of the authorities on the internet. In discussions related to the topic, some individuals claim to have been waiting over a hundred days for their pension applications. One person shared their experience: “I called the social security office, and they informed me that no one has processed my application yet.”

While the administration will retroactively pay pensions to the applicants, those who have terminated their employment and are currently without any income or reserves may face difficulties. In addition, they receive reminders from health insurance companies, unaware that their employer is no longer paying their premiums.

Viktorie Plívová, a spokesperson for an insurance company, explained the situation: “Unfortunately, in these cases, the health insurance company cannot proceed differently than prescribed by law. It must request an explanation and payment of the minimum insurance contribution from clients whose health insurance payment status is unclear.”

She clarified that any payments made toward the minimum insurance contribution would be reimbursed to the client once their pension is granted. This means that once the pension is approved, it will be evident that the person paid the premiums during that period, and any overpayments will be returned to them.

If an individual applied for a pension, for example, in November of the previous year with an effective date of January, and by April, their application had not been approved, they could urge the social security office to issue a decision, considering the reminders from the health insurance company.

In this situation, unofficial sources from insurance companies suggest that if the premiums remain unpaid for several months, the person will not face any real consequences, and the state should cover the outstanding premiums.

Regarding social insurance, there should be no problem at all. Drmolová assured, “If someone (with an unresolved pension application since January) has not been engaged in gainful activity since February, they are not obliged to pay social security contributions from that month onwards. Furthermore, no one else must pay social security contributions on their behalf.”