Home Healthcare Healthcare Basics A guide to health insurance in the Netherlands
Last update on September 20, 2019

Everyone living in the Netherlands must have Dutch health insurance, whether public health insurance in the Netherlands or private health insurance. Read about the Dutch health insurance system for expats.

Foreigners moving to the Netherlands will be assured to hear the Dutch healthcare system is ranked as the best healthcare in Europe, according to the Euro Health Consumer Index, although it is mandatory to have some form of health insurance in the Netherlands, whether Dutch public health insurance or private health insurance to access local healthcare services. There are certain conditions, however, which determine if you are eligible for public Dutch health insurance – or not.

Most expats living in the Netherlands long-term are eligible to apply for state Dutch health insurance. There are some exceptions, however; if you’re ineligible for Dutch public health insurance, or you want extra cover, you’ll need to take out private health insurance in the Netherlands.

This guide explains who needs mandatory health insurance in the Netherlands and how to choose a Dutch health insurance company. It covers:

Bupa Global

Bupa Global is one of the world’s largest international health insurers. They offer direct access to over 1.3 million medical providers worldwide, and provide direct settlements, so no up-front healthcare payment for the client is required. They provide access to leading specialists without the need to see a family doctor first, and ensure the same level of cover, whether at home or away.

Who must obtain Dutch health insurance?

Most foreigners who are living or working in the Netherlands are required by law to take out the standard Dutch public health insurance within four months after their resident permit starts. There are, however, some exceptions depending on your situation. Euraxess provides a flowchart to see which Dutch health insurance is required for your situation.

Employees

As a general rule, all foreigners who work in the Netherlands, including internships and volunteer positions, must take out Dutch public health insurance.

Dutch health insurance for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens

Citizens from the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA – EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland and their families staying temporarily (and not working) for less than one year can typically use their European Union Health Insurance Card (EHIC). You must contact the EHIC whether your stay is considered temporary; otherwise Dutch health insurance will apply, for example, if you start working.

Although EHIC holders can access Dutch healthcare for up to a year on the same basis as a local, they may have to pay upfront and claim the money back later. You will also only be reimbursed for necessary treatment or medication that has been prescribed by a Dutch doctor.

For EU/EEA/Swiss citizens living in the Netherlands for more than a year, you will need to take out Dutch public health insurance; retirees may be covered by healthcare cover from their home country but should check.

Dutch health insurance for non-EU citizens

Non-EU citizens staying longer than three months need a residence permit. After this, they must take out the Dutch public health insurance. Some people may need to take out private insurance, depending on personal circumstances or illnesses, explained below.

Dutch health insurance for students

Foreign students must get Dutch health insurance if they have a part-time job, a paid internship, or a zero-hour casual contract. Unemployed foreign students who are not EU/EEA/Swiss citizens, however, are not eligible to take out Dutch health insurance and must instead arrange their own private insurance, unless covered by an acceptable insurance in their home country. You can read detailed information about student health insurance requirements in the Netherlands.

Dutch health insurance for children

Children under 18 receive free coverage under their parents’ Dutch health care insurance plan.

Mandatory public Dutch health insurance

There are two forms of public health insurance in the Netherlands:

  • The Zvw (Zorgverzekeringswet) legally requires all residents in the Netherlands to take out a basic Dutch public health insurance package known as basisverzekering or basispakket; having coverage in your home country doesn’t exempt you from this requirement. Dutch health insurance coverage is decided upon by the government each year and covers most healthcare services from GPs and hospitals. Health insurance companies have to offer the same basic policy to everyone and must accept all applicants regardless of age or state of health. They typically charge a contribution (an excess fee or deduction) towards your medical bills each year of at least €385 (2017).
  • The second scheme, under the Wlz (Wet langdurige zorg), which replaced the AWBZ (Algemene Wet Bijzondere Ziektekosten) in 2015, covers long-term nursing and care treatment, such as dementia and other severe mental, physical and sensory impairments. The government assesses your situation to determine what care is necessary. Deductions from your salary fund this scheme. However, those 18 years and older must provide their own monetary contribution (eigen bijdrage), which is calculated depending on your income, financial capital, and living situation.

Health insurance in the Netherlands

Residents in the Netherlands pay among the highest in Europe for insurance; Eurostat data shows that these costs amounted to 4.2% of household spending in 2015. This, however, is largely due to Dutch health insurance monthly payments.

For more information about eligibility, what care and treatments are covered, how Dutch insurance is funded, the excess and help with costs, see our comprehensive guide to the Dutch healthcare system or the Dutch government’s web page on Dutch health insurance.

Health insurance companies in the Netherlands

You can check Expatica’s list of private and public health insurance companies in the Netherlands or use our Dutch health insurance comparison tool. There are more than 150 Dutch health insurance companies, with some of the largest including:

What does Dutch health insurance cover?

The basic Dutch insurance package typically covers all costs for common medical care services. The Dutch government decides yearly what the basisverekering includes. The current basic health package in the Netherlands cover the following:

  • GP consultations
  • Treatments from specialists and hospital care
  • Medication
  • Dental care and physiotherapy up to 18 years old
  • Care from certain therapists, such as speech therapists
  • Basic mental health services
  • Anti-smoking programs
  • Dietary advice
  • Obstetrics and maternity care.

Healthcare reforms scheduled for 2017 include:

  • Full coverage of dental operations to place absent incisors and canines will be granted to policy holders up to 22 years of age.
  • Patients will now have to pay 10% and 8% of the total cost of dentures implanted on their lower jaw and upper jaw respectively.
  • Those who suffer intermittent claudication (limping) will be compensated for 37 physiotherapy treatments but operations must take place within a year.

Changes to public health insurance in the Netherlands 2017

The Dutch government made several public health insurance reforms as part of the 2017 budget:

  • The basic eigen risico amount (excess fee) will remain the same at €385. This is the first time it hasn’t increased since 2011. 
Policy holders can pay this compulsory excess in 10 monthly installments.
  • The healthcare subsidy (zorgtoeslag) will increase by around €1.50 per person and €3.50 for larger households.
  • Some patients will receive reimbursements for plastic surgery operations that are deemed necessary, such as upper eyelid correction, breast prosthesis and circumcision.
  • Basisverzekering (instead of the Wlz) pays for temporary admission to a care facility.

Private health insurance in the Netherlands

If you are not covered by the public Dutch health insurance or you want to take out cover for extra treatments (for example, physiotherapy, psychiatric care or extensive dental treatments), then you’ll have to take out a private health insurance policy. Private health insurance also typically offers access to private facilities so you can get treatment sooner than through the state system, as well as other perks, such as not having to share a hospital room and more comprehensive services for in-patient and out-patient care, hospices, rehabilitation and maternity.

Unlike the basic Dutch insurance policy, insurance companies are not obliged to accept you for private insurance. As a result, your age and health condition can impact your chances of approval.

You may also consider getting an international health insurance plan, particularly if you travel a lot. Read how to choose between local or international private health insurance.

How to apply for Dutch health insurance

You have four months to take out health insurance in the Netherlands after arriving. Failing to do so leaves you liable for a hefty fine and a retroactive bill.

When you register with a health insurance company, you must provide your Citizen Service Number (burgerservicenummer or BSN). This is issued to you by your employer or by application from the municipal authority where you live or from the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst). You’ll also need to provide proof of residence in the Netherlands as well as an identification document. If you’re an employee, you’ll also have to provide a letter from your employer confirming your employment.

Health insurance in the Netherlands: Health insurance companies

Insurance policies are valid from the time you pay your very first premium. The most common method of registering is to either contact the health insurance company online or by phone.

The cost of your Dutch public health insurance depends on many factors, but general packages start around €100. Low-income earners may be eligible to apply for healthcare benefit for support with the payments.

How to choose a Dutch health insurance company

You are free to select a basic Dutch insurance company of your choice. However, it can be difficult to choose between different insurers; many of their websites are only available in Dutch, which, even with online translators, can be tricky to read. You may find some Dutch health insurance companies that provide information in English.

You can start by looking at comparison sites, for example, www.independer.nlwww.zorgverzekering.org or www.kiesbeter.nl, in order to find an insurance company best suited to you and your family, taking into consideration price, what is covered, and how much is the excess payment (the amount you co-pay for certain treatments).

Some employers also offer corporate health insurance schemes for employees, which may be cheaper than taking out a policy individually.

It is possible to purchase additional coverage (aanvullende pakket) from a different insurer than your basic insurer. Although this might complicate processing your bills, it can sometimes lower overall costs or allow you to purchase additional health insurance coverage tailored to foreigners in the Netherlands.

Dutch health insurance system: Health insurance in the Netherlands for expats

How to use your health insurance in the Netherlands

Whenever you seek medical treatment or purchase prescriptions, you must present your ID and Dutch health insurance card. Whether you pay upfront for treatments and claim back from the insurer or the insurer pays the health provider directly depends on your policy; check the fine print of your policy.

You must also pay the state-set excess amount (or deductible) towards your healthcare costs each year; the Dutch government revises this annually. For 2017, the amount is €385. A number of political parties are currently campaigning to significantly decrease or abolish the own-risk provision altogether.

At the end of each year, the government announces next year’s basic insurance premiums. Dutch residents may change health insurance providers once per year, as long as you declare your intentions to cancel prior to 1 January.

What to look for in a Dutch insurance policy

  • How much is the premium?
  • How does the policy work? There are three types: a policy in kind, where the health insurer has contracts with specific health providers and pays the bills for any treatment directly to them; a restitution policy, where you choose your health provider, pay for treatment upfront and get a refund from the insurance company afterwards; and a combination policy where the insurer partially covers the bill.
  • What is the excess or eigen risico (the part of the cost that you have to pay yourself)? The mandatory excess for every basisverzekering is €385 in 2017; the government reviews prices annually. Increasing your excess payment (e.g., up to €885) can be a way to lower your monthly payments.
  • Can you take out supplementary insurance for any care or treatment that’s not included in the standard package?
  • Some health insurance providers offer additional benefits free of charge, such as dental accident insurance. It is in these ‘extras’ that insurers compete with their basic Dutch insurance package.

What to look for in a private insurance policy

Look carefully at individual packages to find the one that provides the best cover for your circumstances. Consider the following questions:

  • Do you have any pre-existing conditions?
  • What are the premiums and excess?
  • Do you have children?
  • Do you plan to travel abroad regularly and need coverage for any medical emergencies?

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