The Netherlands is one of the best countries in Europe to live in, because of the high living conditions, gender equality, high salaries, and many other aspects that this society has developed through the years. Healthcare, however, doesn’t really match the rest of the standards: it is not the most well-developed aspect of Dutch society, starting from the fact that you have to pay for it.
Healthcare in the Netherlands is not free. You MUST sign up for private health insurance when you are living and working in the Netherlands. The whole insurance system is privatized, yet one can always apply for Government Help. For children under 18, it is free.
The Health System in the Netherlands is private. You have to choose what clinic or what doctor you want as your general physician. This is going to remain the same for a year and so will be your insurance. It is rather a difficult system to understand for people who are not familiar with it. It sometimes ends up being chaotic. If you need some help or have some doubts, here it is my experience with health insurance in the Netherlands.
Health Insurance in the Netherlands
Health Insurance (or Zorgverzekering) in the Netherlands is private, but unlike the USA, you HAVE TO sing up for some sort of insurance, that is previously checked and accepted by the Dutch Government.
The Government provides a list of Insurance Companies where you can get your medical services from. Everything goes through these companies, including public hospitals and medication. These are the most popular ones in the country:
It is also important to know that if you cannot pay for this Health Insurance or it is very expensive compared to your salary or like me, you only work part-time, you can always ask for Government Help. This type of request is called Zorgtoeslag, and it is open for anyone to apply and see if you are eligible to get a total refund for the health insurance cost on a monthly basis.
If your medical costs exceed the normal for any given reason, you can also contact the Gemeente of your city and ask how you can ask for a refund when doing taxes. If your health costs exceed your excess and they end up being very expensive, you will always receive some refund for all the expenses.
FAQ: Health Insurance
The Dutch Health System is not the simplest to understand and even for Dutch people, it is hard to explain. I have had to ask many questions to my friends, my coworkers, my bosses and absolutely anyone about how I could access to this and have a doctors appointment. Here there are some of the most common questions and the most useful ones:
How Does Health Insurance Work?
You go online (like with everything in the Netherlands) and sing up for an insurance company. Once you have done that, in a matter of days, you will have your insurance card. One the one hand, you will have the Dutch insurance hard that works for almost any clinic or hospital in the Netherlands. On the other hand, on the same card, you will have your European insurance card.
Does my EHIC Work in the Netherlands?
Yes and no. It is a valid document in case your Government wants to cover your international appointment/medical bill, but it is mostly a legal document, you will need it. However, you will have to pay for the services.
The European Health Insurance Law establishes that any European citizen has the same right as the citizens of the country he or she is visiting. This means that if a Dutch person has an accident in Spain but the Spanish health system is free for any Spanish citizen, it will also be free for the Dutch citizen. However, since Dutch citizens have to pay for their medical assistance and it is not a Government issue but a privatesed one, any person who visits the Netherlands will have to pay for it as well.
If you happen to have an emergency while visiting the Netherlands, I wrote an article about Tourist Doctors in Amsterdam and everything you need to know about them.
What Happens if I Don’t Get Insured?
I made this mistake when I was doing my Erasmus in the Netherlands and I first got my part-time job in Amsterdam. As a student coming from Spain, I didn’t have to pay for an insurance in the Netherlands as long as I had a private insurance (a travel insurance that would cover for everything). However, when I started working, my travel insurance stopped working for me, in the sense that it was compelled for me to have a Dutch insurance.
Since I didn’t know this and nobody told me, nothing happened and I went back to Spain. When I went back to the Netherlands to do my MA, as soon as I registered in my new home, I got a 500 euros fine for the 3 months that I worked part-time (11 months ago by then) and all the interests for making them wait for getting a health insurance.
I would recommend that, whatever job you do, you need to get insured from day 1 and avoid getting a horrible fine for not knowing or not being insured during the days you legally work in this country.
Does Everybody Have to Be Insured?
Yes, that includes children who are living in the Netherlands and who are obviously not working. Once you start applying for your insurance you will be asked if you want to include any member of your family in this insurance or if it is a private and personal one only. For children under 18 you won’t have to pay any extra costs for their insurance. If you are studying but not working in the Netherlands, you don’t have to have one but it is convenient to have a private international insurance just in case.
How Can I get a Doctors Appointment?
This question sounds really basic but it is not as simple as it seems. I struggled to find out how to make an appointment. To start with, I searched only all the clinics and hospitals around me (because you have priority over other people to the clinics and practises closer to you). Once I did that, I found a student doctor that I liked and it was close to uni and I decided to request their permission to be one of their patience and see if they have a place for me. Luckily so, I received an email saying that it was possible and since I didn’t know how I could make an appointment online, I decided to pop in and ask for one. You can also do so by phone if you prefer it.
In this WEBSITE you can enter your postcode and you will be shown the possible places around you (in Dutch).
If you prefer if, you can always go to the City Hall (Gemeente) and ask for their gemeentegids, a booklet where they keep all the updated information about GPs in their area.
It is important to register at a Huisart (GPs) as soon as you get insured so that you have a place to go when you are ill. Believe me, it is not nice to be rejected from a hospital because you are not their priority since you are not with them, or having to wait days for a confirmation email before you can make an appointment.
What is the cheapest insurance?
This really depends on what the of services you want. The more services you get, the more you will have to pay. It is relatively simple ones you get to know it. In general, you will have to expect to pay at least 80 euros per month, if you have higher coverage. The total per month depends on your excess-eigen risico (read below). The cheapest ones belong to Zilveren Kruis and Just
If you want to know more about them, the most popular Dutch Insurance Companies are compared in English in this WEBSITE. All approved by the Government and nicely explained.
What does Eigen Risico mean?
Eigen Risico means, literally, Own Risk, which in English refers to Excess. The maximum excess you can ask for to your insurance company is € 885 and the mandatory excess € 385. This means that this is the total amount of money you can use for any health appointment or usage of any facility and the rest you may use during the year, it is covered by the bank.
If you choose to go for the mandatory excess (385 euros), you will have a slightly higher monthly quote for health insurance. If you choose to go for the highest (885 euros per year), you will be eligible for the cheapest rate. It all depends on how many savings you have in you account to cover those extra 500 if you have to do it.