VZP questions the principle of “grace summer”

Milan Malíček

The General Health Insurance Company (VZP) insists that the amendment to the Enforcement Code is not clear. Under it, debtors in execution can repay the necessary amount owed, the so-called principal, and the remaining fees, including penalties, will be forgiven. However, according to the interpretation of the VZP, penalties may be part of the principle. Although it has urged bailiffs not to charge penalties, this leaves borrowers with nothing certain.

But according to the MPs who pushed through the grace summer, as the option to get rid of debts is called, this is nonsense. They are therefore considering an amendment so that there can be no doubt.

As part of the grace summer, people who bailiffs owe debts to public institutions such as municipal or state authorities, Czech Television and Radio, or companies with a majority state or municipal shareholdings, such as transport companies or CEZ, can pay back the principal together with CZK 908 as a flat fee to the bailiff between 28 October and 28 January. The rest will be forgiven. The amendment also mentions health insurance companies among the institutions mentioned.

However, VZP’s interpretation is unclear, and the penalty may be part of the principle. The insurer said that this had been confirmed by a consultation with the Ministry of Health. “We are thus in a paradoxical situation where we will appeal to contract executors to ensure that our clients pay only the premium debt on health insurance and that the recovery of penalties is waived,” said VZP director Zdeněk Kabátek.

However, according to the Chamber of Executors, it is up to health insurers or other creditors and possibly the courts to decide how to proceed with the penalty. “Such a decision does not belong to bailiffs, and it is not possible to delegate this role to them,” the chamber was quoted as saying in a statement by the Czech News Agency.

MPs who pushed the change into law disagree with the insurance company’s approach. They say it is a play on words when the explanatory memorandum to the amendment to the enforcement code is straightforward. “It is not possible to recover the penalty as principal,” said MP Marek Výborný (KDU-ČSL).

“There is a clear will of the legislator,” confirmed MP Patrik Nacher (ANO). According to him, we cannot wait for court pronouncements on interpretation because the grace summer will soon be in force. “We are ready if misinterpretations continue to occur, to amend the law where it will be written that the penalty is not a principal, and to extend the grace summer,” Nacher added.

According to Daniel Hůle of People in Need, the grace summer at VZP could affect 230,000 people who owe it CZK 16 billion in penalties. If people take advantage of the grace summer at VZP, they should act differently than other debtors. They need to write that they are using this instrument to repay their debts and ask the bailiff to calculate the principal and the account number where to send it and CZK 908.

“I recommend that when paying the debt to VZP, you also file a motion to stop the execution, because the bailiff will refer it to the court and the court will decide,” Hůle said, adding that otherwise, some bailiffs might deduct the paid money from the accessories and not deal with it further.