Wondering what type of health insurance you need in the Netherlands in 2021? Don’t worry, we have the answers to all your questions about Dutch healthcare!
Who said living life on the edge is a good thing? Definitely not the Dutch! If you’re someone who prefers to be safe rather than sorry, we’re certain you already have all the insurances possible.
If you’re not — well, sorry to break it to you, but it is mandatory to have Dutch health insurance when you’re living and working here. The Health Insurance Act declares that everyone should have access to affordable healthcare for whatever ailments you may have.
We’ve stacked this article with useful tips so that you can be happy with the health insurance provider you sign up for. If you’re wondering why Dutch health insurance is mandatory, what to do if you have overdue payments or if you are so riddled with questions that you don’t know where to begin, then read on!
But if you want to get ahead of us and find an insurance provider because you’ve already done your research, then visit Zorgwijzer – the only health insurance comparison website in English in the Netherlands. We teamed up with them to bring you all the do’s and don’ts when it comes to selecting your health insurance in the Netherlands.
1Is having Dutch health insurance mandatory?
When you first move to the Netherlands, one of the first things you have to do is get out Dutch health insurance policy. Everyone who is working and residing in the Netherlands has to have one, and you risk getting a fine if you wait too long.
You will come under the Health Insurance Act (ZVW) and the Long-Term Care Act (Wlz) which is designed to work on social solidarity. This means that once you sign up for an insurance policy and start paying towards your monthly premiums you are helping to create a pool of financial resources not just for yourself, but everyone else who has signed up too.
Don’t worry, no one’s getting freebies here — everyone pays for what they need, and they only get what they signed up for. For example, the basic, compulsory Dutch health insurance packages cover maternity care.
Although part of the population may not require maternity care themselves, social solidarity means the women will receive the care they need, without necessarily having to pay extra.
You have to sign up for an insurance policy within four months of your arrival for non-EU nationals, and within one year for EU nationals. However, there are exceptions for who needs to have mandatory health insurance. You are required to get an income-related premium only if you’re receiving your monthly wages from a Dutch employer, or if you receive any benefits from the state.
2Is Dutch healthcare insurance free?
Nope, sadly it is not. Although the law requires you to take out mandatory insurance, it is not regulated so that it is free of cost. You have to pay monthly premiums towards your healthcare costs where basic things like visiting a GP, basic prescription pills, etc are covered (but more on that later).
So how much will I be paying as a monthly premium for my Dutch health insurance?
If you were to take out the mandatory basic Dutch health insurance without any supplementary insurances, then you are looking at costs of around 100 euros a month. The cost varies according to the own-risk fee or deductibles you set up (i.e., putting up a part of the medical costs yourself but we’ll get to that), your income, and your place of residence.
Although it is not one of the cheapest monthly premiums available, the Dutch government wants to make sure everyone gets access to quality healthcare. So there are some ways to reduce it — like increasing your deductible or even applying for a health insurance allowance.
Zorgwijzer is a great place for you to compare different health insurance policies and find one which fits you best. They also have a quick guide on the steps you need to take in order to get the mandatory Dutch health insurance.
But if you want to first determine if you are required to have mandatory Dutch health insurance, read on!
3I already have insurance coverage from home/international insurance/EHIC card, should I get healthcare insurance in the Netherlands?
If you are an EU-national who is working and living in the Netherlands, but your employer happens to be based in your home country, you are allowed to be insured there. However, you need to have an A1 certificate. You get this by applying for an S1 or E106 form with the insurance company who is providing you with the insurance coverage.
You can also remain insured in your home country or with international insurance if you are staying in the Netherlands for a short period of time, and your insurance policy covers you here.
Do I need Dutch health insurance if I am working in the Netherlands but live abroad?
Different rules apply for you if you have a job in the Netherlands, but are registered as living in another country, say Belgium or Germany. In that case, you still have to have Dutch health insurance but will have to request to be exempt from paying health insurance in your country of residence. Contact your health insurance provider for more accurate information and the extent of your coverage.
This will change if you have a job with a Dutch employer but don’t worry, we touch upon that here as well!
4I am an international student. Should I have Dutch health insurance?
The Netherlands is a popular destination to pursue higher education. It attracts students from all over the world (guilty, as charged) as it provides for an attractive alternative to the expensive degrees in the US and the UK.
If you’re here on a student visa, or if you plan to only study without working then you are not obligated to be insured by Dutch health insurance.
However, the Netherlands can be expensive, and it would only be natural for a lot of you to look for other opportunities to make some cash on the side. So if you do manage to get a part-time job (there are ways to do that even if you are on a study visa) which pays you a minimum wage, you have to be insured from the first day of your work contract.
A lot of the times, however, you are also required to do an internship as part of your studies. If this internship pays you a minimum wage, you (unfortunately) have to get Dutch health insurance. But if you’re paid less than that, you don’t have to worry about that!
5Should I get Dutch health insurance if I am self-employed?
So you’ve decided to take the plunge and become your own boss. Apart from arranging things with the Chamber of Commerce (being a freelancer in the Netherlands has a lot more steps to that), you also have to arrange your health insurance. It might be different for when you are a student or when you were in contractual employment. For this, you will have to start a Wlz assessment with the SVB. They will advise you and determine if you will need to take out mandatory Dutch health insurance.
However, the way you pay your health insurance will be different to how people with full-time or part-time employment will have to pay. While their health insurance is directly debited from their salary, yours will be through the income taxes you will be paying to the government.
6Is my European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from my home country valid in the Netherlands?
But what do you do if you only have an EHIC and you get hurt in the Netherlands? If you indeed have one, then don’t worry — you’re covered in the Netherlands. But remember, this is only if you are staying here for a short period and not receiving an income from a Dutch employer.
So all exchange students who are EU-nationals, travellers, or even if you’re just an international EU student who has health insurance your home country and an EHIC card in the Netherlands, don’t worry about the validity of the card! It only becomes null and void if you start working and receive at least a Dutch minimum wage.
7Basic health care insurance in the Netherlands. What does the basic package cover?
Okay, now that we have covered if you need to have Dutch health insurance or not, let’s start talking about what you will be signing up for.
If you are legally required to get Dutch health insurance, you will get a compulsory basic package.
As mentioned earlier, generally, it will cost around 100 euros a month, with a set amount on your “own risk-fee” or deductibles. The prices vary according to how much you set this deductible to be.
8What are deductibles in the Dutch health care system?
Wait, what? I pay a monthly premium and some own-risk fee? What are these deductibles and why should I pay them?
Yep, that’s the catch here: although the basic package can be pretty extensive for anyone who would not require a specialist’s treatment and care, you still have to put up some of the costs for some of the services. These are known as deductibles, and they cover your excess for the whole year.
If you’re generally a very healthy person who would not need to visit the doctor a lot, then you can voluntarily set your excess to a higher amount. The higher your excess own-risk fee, the lower your monthly health insurance premium. But make sure you do have the excess stashed away somewhere just in case, though.
The deductibles can be set at €385, €485, €585, €685, €785, and €885. Your monthly and yearly medical bills and insurance premiums will depend on which deductible you pick.
But there are a few services which you can utilise as part of your monthly premiums and don’t have to incur any extra charges.
- Visiting your GP
- Maternity care
- Healthcare for anyone younger than 18
But what do you do if you indeed have a prolonged illness that would require a specialist’s treatment? On top of your basic package, you can pick and choose your supplementary packages — whether it be for mental illnesses, dental, chronic illnesses, etc.
9I have a mental illness, what type of insurance should I get in the Netherlands?
There is a lot of debate about mental healthcare in the Netherlands. If you’re otherwise sound and don’t live with any severe mental conditions, sticking to only the basic package would be fine. It covers some basic primary and secondary mental health care.
As soon as you discuss a treatment plan with your doctor, the cost is estimated for the whole treatment. Therefore, you will not be charged per hour because it’s hard to determine when a person has been cured of a mental illness. Instead, you will be charged for the whole treatment. You don’t have to worry about this bill if you have your insurance in place.
But if you are living with something a lot more complex where you will need to be in intensive therapy, treatments or care, your insurance policy may not cover all of your medical expenses. You will have to read the fine print and go through your policy documents or approach your insurer’s customer service before starting the treatment plan. If not, you might have to take out additional insurance.
If you will require hospitalization, your insurance should cover the first three years you’re there. After that, it will be your call to make.
For everything you need to know, see our extensive guide on mental healthcare in the Netherlands. And remember to always get help. If you or anyone you know is suffering from a mental illness, get help before it’s too late.
Suicide prevention Netherlands: 0900 – 0113
Samaritans: 0602 222 88
10I need to go to the dentist, will my health insurance in the Netherlands cover it?
As mentioned earlier, your basic insurance in the Netherlands covers your dental costs only if you’re under the age of 18 or in the case of an emergency. For regular, non-emergency treatments, you will have to take out additional insurance or aanvullende verrzekering.
But when you’re signing up for one, make sure to read that fine print, because not everything is fully covered. You will find packages that cover only a part of the bill or might have a cap on the number of treatments you can have. Sometimes they cover only the most basic things like consultations with your dentist, quick and small treatments, and the like.
To know everything about getting dental insurance, we have made a handy guide for you to inform yourselves about dental insurance in the Netherlands.
11What else does the supplementary insurance cover in the Netherlands?
The supplementary insurance or the aanvullende verrzekering is what you will need if the basic insurance package doesn’t cover everything you need. It will cover some necessary things which may not be useful for a lot of people. This includes and is not limited to dental care (as mentioned above), physiotherapy, homoeopathic treatments and, glasses and contact lenses.
Not all supplementary insurances in the Netherlands are the same: they may differ on the coverage. So be sure to know what you want and need.
12If I don’t get Dutch health insurance, what happens then?
So you have arrived in the Netherlands and you’ve been busy relocating, exploring and just settling into Dutch life. Getting health insurance has completely skipped your mind and your deadline’s up. You will then receive a letter from the CAK and a new deadline will be set for within three months.
If you are still being scatter-brained and don’t have insurance by then, you will be issued a fine of 402.24 euros. You will then have six months before your next fine will be due. If you still haven’t signed up, you will have to pay another fine of the same amount. And even then if you don’t sign up within nine months of the first letter you received, then CAK will take the liberty of registering you with an insurer.
The insurance will be backdated to your date of arrival and you will have to pay for all those months, so, really, it is not worth being that disorganised.
13Alright, I have my Dutch insurance. Can I go to the hospital as I please?
So how can you actually use it? Can you go to the hospital as you like, or do you have to go through different channels? Who should you approach first? The Dutch love their protocols, so you must be wondering what the protocol for going to the hospital in the Netherlands is.
If you’re in a medical emergency in the Netherlands
In case you are in an emergency, you have to call the emergency number 112. It’s a toll-free number which puts you through to either the ambulance, the fire brigade or the police. Tell the first-responders where to pick you up, and they will take you to the nearest hospital. If you have basic Dutch health insurance, you need not worry about the bills. All policies cover emergency medical situations, including the ambulance ride to the hospital.
If you don’t, unfortunately, you’ll have to gather the finances to pay the hefty bills yourself. So it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry, eh?
If it’s a non-emergency medical situation
If it’s a non-emergency situation, you will have to go to your GP first. It will generally cost you a whole lot more if you do not have a referral letter from them. Or in better situations, they might be able to treat you themselves. But if you do need a specialist’s care, a letter from your GP will cover the consultation charges (but not the treatment).
14I have gotten hurt abroad and need to go to the doctor, will my Dutch health insurance cover it?
If you’re travelling within the EU/EEA (including Switzerland) and you have Dutch health insurance, then don’t worry about getting hurt or soliciting medical services. You enjoy the same level of health care as the people who live there. Depending on your insurance provider’s reimbursement policy, it could be easy or hard for you.
But the good thing is, you can apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with your health insurance provider for free. It is basically proof to show that you are insured in an EU country. Carry this around with you when you travel and get your reimbursements faster.
However, do check with your insurance provider of what kinds of treatments are reimbursed. Your policy may cover only some services and costs, but not all of them. In that case, you will have to have extra travel insurance. Additionally, if the healthcare costs are higher than how much it would be in the Netherlands, you may have to pay the difference. Check the Dutch government’s website for the latest information for this, or check Zorgwijzer where they tell you how much of it might be covered.
15I don’t qualify for the basic package, what are my other options?
If you don’t qualify for Dutch health insurance, then you still have a lot of different options available to you.
I have been a non-EU, master’s student in the Netherlands for a while. I came here on a study visa which had stringent rules on what kind of jobs I can have and under what conditions (even if it was an internship). So I did not qualify for the basic Dutch health insurance package. My university referred me to a private one where I paid 40 euros a month. So it was much less than what I would have paid if I was eligible.
You could do what I did, or you could also stick to the insurance you have in your home country (make sure it covers you in the Netherlands!) or international insurance.
16I received a letter from my health insurer because my premium is overdue. What now?
Sometimes, things can get difficult financially, and you might risk not paying your health insurance for a bit. We have one piece of advice for you: DON’T DO IT. There are always options like getting healthcare subsidies or reducing your deductibles.
But if you do find yourself in this situation, you may have to pay a higher premium. Your health insurance provider will track you down (it’s not that hard, they have your address) and send you a letter if you are behind two months worth of payments. You can arrange a payment plan with them.
If you’re overdue by four months of payments, they will send you a final warning to arrange a payment plan. If you don’t do this in time, you can also go to the municipality for debt counselling.
But seriously, consider making the effort to apply for subsidies before you find yourself in this situation.
17Can I get a healthcare allowance?
If you cannot afford to pay for the mandatory basic health insurance in the Netherlands, then don’t worry. The government has a healthcare allowance or zorgtoeslag for people in such a situation.
You get paid a certain amount of money every month, which you can then use to pay for your health insurance. You are also allowed to apply for one with your tax partner! You are eligible if:
- You are 18-years-old or older and are eligible for compulsory Dutch health insurance.
- Your (combined) income is low
- You are an EU-national, or a citizen of Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland
- If you’re a non-EU national, you need to have a valid residence or work permit.
We have a more extensive guide on getting your subsidy in place so that you don’t get into debt, so make sure to check everything you need to know about healthcare allowance in the Netherlands! Or check Zorgwijzer — they have a quick and updated guide in getting healthcare allowance in the Netherlands.
18I’m not happy with my insurance provider, how can I change it?
Do you find that the health insurance provider you have chosen is not sufficient enough for you? Things change and your needs might also change with that — whether you’re moving from a job, the possible high premiums, and so on. For whatever reason, if you want to change your insurance provider, it’s a pretty straightforward procedure.
In practice, you are signing up for a contract of a year and therefore are allowed to change providers only once a year. You should cancel it before January 1 of the next year, and take out new insurance before February 1. You will then be insured starting from January 1. For example for this year, cancel your insurance before January 1, 2020, and sign up for a new one before February 1, 2020.
Many of the insurance providers also make it easy where they provide a transfer service – this means that if you sign up with them before December 31, they will cancel your old insurance for you.
19Is there a place I can compare insurances?
Since you can change it only once a year, you want to be damned sure that you’re signing up for the right one. So make sure you know exactly what you need, how much coverage is optimum, how much of a deductible is cost-effective and if it is affordable for you.
So make sure you compare the insurance policies with a close eye! The only website available in the Netherlands in English to compare multiple insurances is Zorgwijzer. They give you all the latest prices and has an excellent feedback loop with extensive reviews from people. One place for you to know which health insurance in the Netherlands is the way to go!
You can pick the insurance policies that you want to compare, and you will get a side-by-side view of the rating, hospital coverage, pharmacies, physiotherapists, and the extent of your coverage. All you have to do is click on the policies you want to compare, and voila! You have all the relevant information you need.
Were we able to answer any of the questions you might’ve had about Dutch health insurance? Did we miss something out? We even have a complete guide to healthcare in the Netherlands, a guide to dental care, mental healthcare in the Netherlands, going to the hospital, and finding the right GP for you.
Feature Image: Zhen Hu/Unsplash
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in December 2019, and was fully updated in January 2021 for your reading pleasure.