The EESSI project should finally gain momentum in the middle of 2017 as soon as the European Commission makes the most important parts of this IT system available. Thanks to EESSI, social security bodies in the European Member States will be able to communicate with one another electronically in the future.
The status quo
Although there is often electronic communication in the Member States, most of the information on social security that is exchanged between the Member States has been paper-based. This has been done using 50 “E-forms”. The “E” does not stand for “electronic” but rather is a reference to Europe.
This has resulted in a mountain of paperwork. An example of this in health insurance are documents related to proof of entitlement. Millions of invoices for health benefits provided in other EU countries are sent back and forth for processing. In pension insurance, it must be ensured that people who have worked in several Member States over the course of their career receive their pension from all participating countries. This requires claim application data and other information to be exchanged between the pension insurance systems. In accident insurance, the institutions send written confirmations for cross-border entitlements following workplace accidents and occupational diseases.
The way of the future: EESSI
EESSI stands for “Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information”. This assists with the compulsory, cross-border electronic exchange of messages and information as required by the EU regulations on social security coordination.
This regulation also requires the German social insurance institutions to connect to the European infrastructure. Following several delays in the project, the Administrative Commission should declare EESSI to be fit for purpose in June 2017.
Electronic data exchange between social security institutions expected from 2019
The principle behind EESSI
The aim of the EESSI project is to replace the paper-based exchange of European social service documentation and administration with electronic processes. EESSI provides a central platform via which the national social security bodies can exchange all information using structured electronic documents (SEDs) based on business use cases (BUCs). Each BUC is assigned to a specific sector (see diagram above).
The information to be exchanged is entered into the relevant SED and must meet the various requirements set by the Member States in order to ensure the smooth exchange of data.
Social security experts from the Member States played a vital role in the development phase of EESSI.
What happens now?
As part of the technical implementation, national access points will be set up in the Member States and the social security bodies in each country will be linked to the EESSI system. Starting in summer 2019, the exchange of social security data between the European social security institutions should happen electronically.
This change represents a major challenge to the German health insurance system. More than 100 health insurance funds must make extensive modifications to their existing procedures in order to participate in the new system of European data exchange. This means that every paper-based document must be put into electronic format and reimbursement processes must be converted to electronic data exchange.
For German pension insurance, the number of pension applications from people who have worked across multiple EU countries has been steadily increasing for years. Thus, linking the programme system to the EESSI system also aims to transfer personal data and insurance periods from an electronic message directly into a person’s pension insurance account.
The various German social accident insurance institutions need to be linked to the access points and a decision needs to be made quickly with regards to which technical options seem reasonable and proportionate for the cases to be processed.
Implementation requires an enormous effort on the part of the German social security institutions. Nevertheless, this means the optimisation potential of digitalisation is being utilised. The quality of the information being transferred increases significantly and data can be transferred directly into the institutions’ processing systems after standardised electronic validation. The added value of standardisation as the result of a well-thought-out digitalisation strategy also benefits EU citizens because applications can be processed faster and benefits can be paid out sooner.