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INSURANCE

Riksdag sets tougher limits for sick benefits

The Swedish parliament on Wednesday passed controversial new limits on sickness benefits designed to get more people back into the workforce.

The measure, which passed by a 149-140 vote, means that people who have been on long-term sick leave for 914 days or whose time-limited sickness benefits have run out will be directed to participate in a three-month training course run by the National Public Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen) in order to help them find a way back into the labour market.

No Riksdag members from the three main opposition parties voted in favour of the measure, which Social Democratic parliamentarian Veronica Palm referred to as the “chain of decompensation” when debate on the measure, more formally referred to as the last step in the chain of rehabilitation, began on Wednesday.

Palm charged that the government was promoting policies which took a tough and cynical line toward people suffering from long-term illnesses.

Around 15,000 people are expected to be affected by the changes, which come into effect on January 1st.

During debate on the bill, the opposition accused the government of stripping people of their insurance and associated compensation.

“Your policies are scary and worrying. People will commit suicide because of your policies,” charged Left Party Riksdag member LiseLotte Olsson during the debate, according to the TT news agency.

Eighteen months have passed since the Riksdag first decided to place limits for each link in the chain of Sweden’s welfare and benefits programmes, a move designed to bring as many people back into the workforce as possible.

Wednesday’s debate focused on the specifics of the final step of getting people off sickness benefits and into jobs.

Palm reminded her colleagues that at the time of the original debate, many Riksdag members warned of “dogmatic time limits”.

She brought up the fact that both the Swedish Associations of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) and Samhall, a state-owned company which provides jobs to people with disabilities, said the time limits were too unforgiving.

Palm provided her own explanation for why the government didn’t realize the changes would be problematic for people on long-term sick leave.

“It’s because they believed in the stereotype that people are prone to a little bit of cheating. But now it’s been shown that those who are on sick leave are in fact sick,” she said.

“Take a step back, think about it, do it again and do it right.”

Meanwhile, social insurance minister Cristina Husmark Pehrsson of the Moderate Party didn’t rule out other amendments to the health insurance system in addition to those proposed by the majority in the Riksdag’s health and welfare committee.

“We’re following developments carefully,” she said.

At the same time, however, Husmark Pehrsson asserted that the change was one necessary reform after decades of neglect, but that the question was difficult and complicated.

She reminded her colleagues that when the government took office in 2006, there were 770,000 Swedes on long-term sick leave or receiving benefits after being forced out of the workforce early due to illness or injury.

After a year, she continued, people forced to abandon their careers early against their will were then forgotten.

“We want to give everyone a second chance. We’re building a bridge between sickness benefits and the labour market; between the National Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) and Arbetsförmedlingen,” said Husmark Pehrsson.

“It’s not a bridge, it’s a slide,” countered Palm.

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INSURANCE

EXPLAINED: Why you need ‘legal protection insurance’ in Switzerland

Swiss insurance companies offer a variety of services, but the one covering legal disputes is among the most popular ones. This is what you should know about it.

EXPLAINED: Why you need 'legal protection insurance' in Switzerland
Law and order: Legal insurance may make it easier. Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

The Swiss like to be prepared for all kinds of disasters — both real and imaginary.

This is where insurance comes in.

Whether it’s a policy that covers damages inflicted on cars by weasels, or insurance for theft of sleds and skis placed outside a mountain restaurant, people here don’t like to leave anything to chance.

One of the most popular optional coverages — as opposed the health insurance, which is compulsory — is legal protection insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherungen in German, protection juridique in French, and protezione giuridica in Italian).

What is it and what does it cover?

Simply put, it covers attorney and other associated fees if you undertake court action against someone, are sued, or simply need legal advice.

There are two different types of legal protection insurance — one specifically for traffic accidents and the other for all other matters. Sometimes they are combined.

Typically, this insurance covers costs of legal representation associated with contract disputes, employment, loans and debts, healthcare, housing, retail purchases, and travel.

Photo by Rodnae Productions from Pexels

Some carriers also insure cases related to marital law and inheritance.

Most will not cover attorney fees for criminal cases where you are the perpetrator, or financial disputes related to asset management, banking and investment.

Also excluded is legal action related to political or religious activism.

Can you choose your own lawyer or will you have one assigned to you by the insurance company?

Typically, an insurer has a roster of approved attorneys with whom it works. Some allow the client to choose from the list, while  others select one for you.

If your own lawyer is part of your insurer’s roster, you can request he or she represents you, but it is not guaranteed.

How much does this insurance cost?

Fees vary depending on what coverage you need (traffic accidents, general, or combined), whether they have deductibles, and how high they are.

You can compare the premiums by using this link.

Do you actually need this coverage?

As is the case with any optional insurance, you don’t need it until you do.

Generally speaking, and according to online consumer comparison site Moneyland.ch, “if you require legal consultation at least once every two years, getting personal legal insurance often makes financial sense. Just the legal consultation benefits which you get with some insurance policies can make up for the cost of premiums”.

READ MORE: How much does health insurance cost in Switzerland?

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