Greens demand interest on late social security payments

The Green Party has demanded that the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) pay interest on late payments as parliament prepares to debate the agency's performance on Tuesday.

“If interest can be charged by the Social Insurance Agency regarding repayment of benefits then it it is reasonable that the Social Insurance Agency in turn also be made liable for the payment of interest to individuals when faulty handling of their cases causes delays to their payments,” writes Gunvor G Ericson of the Green party in a press release.

The social security minister, Cristina Husmark Pehrsson, pointed out to news agency TT before the afternoon debate that Försäkringskassan’s processing times are at a “historic low.”

“I am of course not happy with the length of time spent processing cases and the financial pressure incurred by individuals as a result. This is not acceptable. There are still those waiting for their money, but processing times are now historically short,” the minister said.

Figures published by the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs show that the situation reached its nadir during 2008 and that Forsäkringskassan managed to process little over half of new applications for sickness and parents’ allowances within the 30 day target.

Regarding cases of housing supplementary allowances for pensioners – where single pensioners are able to apply for up to a means tested maximum of 4,650 kronor ($586) per month – only 17 percent of cases were dealt within 30 days.

During the autumn and the winter processing times have however been cut dramatically, the social affairs ministry’s figures show.

In December 89 percent of applications for sickness benefits, 86 percent of parents’ allowance applications and 96 percent of housing supplementary applications were dealt with within 30 days.

During 2005 the figures for the three allowances were between 70 and 80 percent.

Försäkringskassan has notified that it plans to submit a request on Wednesday for additional funding of one billion kronor for its 2009 budget. The social security minister Husmark Pehrsson remains in some doubt as to how the large deficit has occurred.

“That is something I wonder too. In October it sounded surmountable, what has happened will I hope be clarified to me tomorrow.”

The minster states that the root of the problem lies in a 2005 reorganization, which entailed a merging of the country’s local social insurance offices into one overarching agency.

“At the time the plan projected savings of one billion kronor. It has been shown that the reorganization could not be completed as thought, and the money has therefore not arrived. That is why this government has boosted Försäkringskassan’s budget by 1.2 billion kronor in recent years,” Husmark Pehrsson said.