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Pros and Cons of the Dutch Healthcare System

by Micaela Zaslabsky

Anyone who has lived in the Netherlands knows how hard it is to understand perfectly well how the Dutch Healthcare System works. The best way to understand it is to live it. However, how well does it work? is it better than other healthcare systems? is it convenient?

The Dutch Healthcare system is complex and it has many pros and cons: On the one hand, you pay for what you want exclusively, drugs are distributed more consciously and there is no abuse. On the other hand, sometimes it is illogical, it is hard to understand and expensive.

Not even Dutch people understand completely well how their Healthcare System works. It is a privatized type of healthcare that allows you (to an extent) to personalize what your needs are and pay only for what you use. This has a lot of positive and negative aspects and in this article, you will be able to read and understand more about them.

Dutch Healthcare System

Even though the Dutch Government regulates strongly the way the healthcare system works, it is a privatized one. You can access it through health insurance companies that you can choose from and sign up in order to be able to have a doctor’s appointment or whatever you need. You will pay for your insurance on a monthly basis and you will be allowed to customize it to fit your needs.

There are many good aspects and many bad aspects about this healthcare system and sometimes it ends up being hard to understand for those like me who were completely unfamiliar with it (mostly when you are just learning Dutch and all the medical and legal terms are in this language).

If you want to know how the Healthcare System works, you can go read my latest article about it HERE.

Pros: Dutch Healthcare

I consider Dutch people to be very smart and on top of everything. They have improved their politics, their gender equality, their social policies and have found a great balance for the law of offer and supply. Even though I may find many aspects of their Health Care System that I don’t necessarily want, there are many others that make much sense:

No Abuse of the System

I have lived in Italy and Spain, places where the Healthcare system is free for all the citizens, including all the tourist. This means that all the hospital, emergency rooms and clinics are full of patiences with a simple cold or who were here on a holiday from Scandinavia and decided that it was a good time to have a dermatologist checking them.

This type of irrational use of the free system doesn’t happen that often in the Netherlands. You end up going to the GP’s only when you really really need it. This means more room for appointments for those who need it, better quality, because the appointments don’t last 5 minutes and are 40 minutes too late and probably also a better understanding of ourselves, when we really need some extra help or consultation, or when we just need a day of and an aspirin.

Pay for What you Want

Paying for what you actually want to use is really a plus. For instance, you can choose if you want to have included a dentist service or not. My boss told me that during one year, he changed his type of insurance and paid some extra to have dentistry services. During the whole year he made all his appointments to make the most out of it and saved some money with all the services he had. The next year he decided he wanted to go back to his normal policy and so he did.

If you are pregnant or have some health issues, if you know you don’t need any special treatment, etc, you can customise it for what you want. Are you likely to break your glasses? Pay some extra and you will have it all covered. Are you likely to have accidents? Same.

You can change your settings and personalise it every year, as much as your needs change. You can also change your GP if you don’t like it after a year of being with them and so on.

Get Government Help

As expensive as the health insurance can be, you can always apply for Government help if your incomes are rather low or if you work part-time.

This the of help is called Zorgtoeslag, you can request it online and if you end up being eligible, the Government will transfer to your account an X amount every month. This will cover up next month’s health insurance.

If you happen to have had an accident, you have some illness and need some extra treatment or you just gave birth and have to pay for all the hospital and service bills, when doing your taxes you will also be eligible for a refund for your expenses.

Use Less Drugs

Something I have experienced in different countries is that when you are given antibiotics or another type of drug you always have some left that you end up storing for years, throwing in the garbage or using it without medical prescription.

When you are given a prescription by a Dutch physician, you are only given the exact amount of pills you need to take, not more, not less. This way you help the planet, your pocket and have more conscious use of drugs than people do in other countries.

Cons: Dutch Healthcare

As many positive aspects of the Dutch Healthcare system one can find, it is very hard to ignore all the difficulties that come with it. Some of the ones I find harder to deal with are:


If you ask any Dutch person how can you make an appointment to see a doctor, where you can get your health insurance and so on, not everybody will be able to answer. It is not the easiest system, it is hard to understand for those who come from different countries and it changes slightly depending on where in the Netherlands you are living.

In Dutch

Of course, Insurance Companies have their information in Dutch. This would seem like a logical thing considering we are talking about the Netherlands, but there are so many other things that are actually in English too (from Government websites to supermarkets to anything, really) that it is hard to believe that Insurance companies only have their websites in Dutch (mostly).

On their defence, I have to say that if you call, you can ask them to speak Dutch. But before you speak to someone there are a lot of questions that you have to reply to a machine that are in Dutch, that it is hard to even get to talk to someone.

Everything is Online

Ok, this may be not so negative, but let me tell you, there are people like my mom, who would think this is a nightmare.

Some of the Health Insurance Companies have their office that you may be able to find if you check their website (check them here) and look for Bezoek een Kantoor. Some of them don’t always offer you that option and you will only be allowed to contact them through e-mail or calling them.

It is very common, in the Netherlands, to do as much as you can online. But sometimes when we are talking about such a sensitive topic as healthcare, it would be better to talk to someone face-to-face and get everything explained.

Hard-access to Emergency Appointments

If you are not registered with a physician by the time you have an emergency and have to go to the emergency room, you will have a hard time letting them take you. There are very few places that would accept people without a Dutch insurance, you will have to fill in a lot of extra information, pay for it in advance and then maybe you will get to see a doctor.

Hard-access for Tourists

I have made a whole article about Tourist Doctor in Amsterdam. It is a hard system to understand and even harder to get to use it when you are in need while travelling.

Besides the normal GP or hospitals, there are also some clinics with independent doctors who ONLY help tourist in need. Some of them may go to your hotel, some of them have a clinic where you can go, but if you are living in the Netherlands you won’t be allowed to go to them. They are separate systems.

To Sum Up

No Abuse of the System Illogical
Pay for What you Want In Dutch
You can Get Government Help Everything is Online
Use Less Drugs Hard-access to
Emergency Appointments
Hard-access for Tourists

In general, even though I have included more negative points than positive ones, the Dutch Healthcare System, like any other Healthcare System, has many pros and cons that would work perfectly well or disturb certain people, depending on your preferences. The truth is, you get used to it and the more time you spend in this country the more knowledge you will gain.

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