One of the things you never want in a country you have just moved to is an urgent need for emergency health treatment. It’s Saturday – who do you call? Where do you go? How does the administration work? Is a trip to the hospital covered by your health insurance? What is the deal with healthcare in the Netherlands?
Luckily for everyone, the Netherlands healthcare system is very accessible and provides some of the best care in the world. According to The Commonwealth Fund, “The Netherlands has ranked first in the Euro Health Consumer Index, which measures how satisfied citizens are with their healthcare system.” The Netherlands is also the only country to have ranked in Euro Health Insurance Index top three since 2005.
How Does Healthcare in the Netherlands Work?
The Dutch are committed to the belief that healthcare should be accessible to everybody. As a result, the cost of healthcare is borne by everyone who lives here. To support this societal value, the government has subsystems in place to manage the overall cost of the system.
As a general rule of thumb, the healthcare system is government run and privately supplemented, with residents required to take out coverage. These health insurance providers in the Netherlands come in all sizes and located almost everywhere – so, on that Saturday, you will get the emergency treatment you need in a modern, no-nonsense fashion.
The most important choice we’ve made is that people don’t get to request services directly from a hospital (expensive) unless they are in acute danger; everybody is registered with a general practitioner of their choice (huisartsen). Your huisarts will help you decide what kind of care you need and where you can get it. (One of the great things about the huisarts arrangement is that you can choose one literally in your neighborhood). From there, there is an entire network of hospitals delivering secondary health services.
Who Can Access the Healthcare System in the Netherlands?
All residents and visitors to the country can access the Dutch healthcare system, pending they have insurance. For Dutch residents, there a mandatory requirement for basic public health insurance (zorgverzekeringswet – Zvw). Those exempt from Zvw are:
- Children (under 18) covered by parent/guardian insurance policy
- Temporary visitors from the EU/EEA/Switzerland, who can receive healthcare coverage through their European Health Insurance Card
- Temporary visitors from outside the EU/EEA/Switzerland who need to purchase private health insurance
- Those with conscientious objections to health insurance, who can apply for an exemption from the Social Insurance Bank (SVB).
How Much Does it All Cost?
Monthly premiums vary, but averages out to about €118 per month. Additionally, all the basic health care in the Netherlands policies have a mandatory excess (eigen risico) of €385 per year. If your costs exceed the eigen risico, you will be reimbursed by your insurance company. GPs, obstetrics, and post-natal care are all completely free, including standard prescriptions.
Note: Public health insurance does not cover some treatment, such as dental treatment and physiotherapy.
How Do I Obtain Health Insurance in the Netherlands?
First, you need to register for your BSN Citizen Service Number (burgerservicenummer).
When you do this, you are then free to register for your health insurance policy:
- Passport or ID
- Proof of address
- Proof of employment
Finally, once you have successfully registered with a health insurance plan, you can register with a huisartsen.
Visiting the Doctor
If you live in Amsterdam and you’re confused about any aspect of the Dutch health care system or the family doctors & general practitioners in The Netherlands a good place to seek advice is the Husiarts Praktijk Amstelveld, also known as Expat Doctor Amsterdam where you’ll be able to communicate with English-speaking staff and also access GPs, physiotherapists and trained psychotherapists. Based at Prinsengracht 762 this valuable service is also home to touristdoc.com, a useful point of reference for those using an EHIC and who are only in the Netherlands for a short time. You can register online or walk in.
Doctors and Specialists in the Netherlands
The huisarts are the first point of contact, even in emergency cases but don’t expect to leave the first consultation with a prescription, as the philosophy behind the Dutch healthcare is generally non-interventionist. Knowing this, it is important to clearly communicate what you feel you need, especially in regards to antibiotics or antidepressants.
Other important things to note about healthcare in the Netherlands are:
- It offers 24-hour coverage. In the event you call after hours, a voice message will lead you to the proper on-call medical services.
- In order to visit a specialist, you MUST have a referral from your huisarts.
- If you are pregnant, your GP will refer you to a midwife for most pre-natal care
- A GP can perform standard gynaecological exams
- For women over 30, cervical cancer checks are available every five years.
- Women aged 50 to 75 can take part in the national breast cancer screening program
- Insurance overs sexually transmitted infections
- A GP can prescribe contraception
Note: You do not need a prescription for emergency contraception.
Expats and Health Insurance
Since the Dutch healthcare system is accessible to everyone who lives and/or works in the Netherlands, these rules apply to expatriates as well. Yes, that means you, even if you have kept a health insurance policy in your home country. As someone living and working in the Netherlands, you have to choose one of the mandatory insurance plans just like everybody else. You must do this within four months of arrival. Up until that point, you can use your European Health Insurance Card if you are from an applicable country.
If you’re in the Netherlands as a student without the intention of employment, you are eligible to use your European Health Insurance Card. If you are from outside the EU/EEA/Switzerland, you can use applicable plans from your country of origin.
Family members of expats are also expected to purchase a Dutch health insurance policy as long as they are not employed outside the Netherlands. Children under 18 should still be registered with an insurer, however they receive free treatment and no premiums.
Note: It is important that everyone hold some type of insurance in the Netherlands. Medical costs can be expensive should you need to meet them from your own pocket.
For further questions on healthcare in the Netherlands and insurance provider recommendations, Payingit International offers an policy via HollandZorg. It is up to you whether you elect to insure yourself through them, but they do have an employer discount on basic policies for people employed through Payingit International.