Proudly inclusive, with a culture that endorses a good work-life balance, the Netherlands has long been a popular destination for expats. The country has a strong economy, excellent career prospects and a high standard of living, as well as one of the best healthcare systems in Europe.
Healthcare in the Netherlands isn’t free, but it’s designed to be fair and accessible to all. The public system is set up in such a way to ensure every resident has access to primary care, regardless of their income or ability to pay.
It may seem like a slightly complex system at first, but once you become familiar with it, it’s fairly simple to navigate. We’ve put together this guide to give you an overview and help you understand the basics.
The Netherlands has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. And it manages to offer this consistently high level of care for all its residents without a traditional universal, public healthcare model.
Instead, by making it mandatory for all residents to take out private health insurance, the Netherlands has effectively combined the quality, availability, and efficiency of private healthcare with the accessibility and fairness of a universal system.
As a result, the standard of care for critical illnesses is exceptionally high, with modern facilities, state-of-the-art equipment, and highly qualified, well-trained medical professionals. The efficiency of the system means that waiting times for appointments are often relatively short compared to other countries.
The healthcare system in the Netherlands might be unlike anything you’ve encountered before. Firstly, it’s important to note that healthcare in the Netherlands isn’t free – it’s expensive but also is one of the best healthcare systems in Europe. You’ll pay for it through a combination of insurance and compulsory salary contributions. The system combines the benefits of private healthcare with the accessibility and fairness of a universal healthcare system.
To make it a bit easier to digest, the healthcare system can be broken up into three main components: mandatory health insurance, optional health insurance and tax-funded long-term social care.
Every resident is legally required to take out basic private insurance that covers primary care. It’s important that you understand how this mandatory health insurance component of the Dutch healthcare system works, as you’ll be required to organise it yourself.
Mandatory health insurance in the Netherlands is provided by one of around 40 different private healthcare companies. However, the Dutch government’s Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport dictates exactly what must be covered by the basic level of cover. This means every private healthcare provider offers the same basic package as standard.
The premiums do vary from company to company as the government doesn’t dictate a set price. However, every insurance company is required to charge all its policyholders the same premium for the same basic package, regardless of their age or the state of their health. Insurance providers are also required to accept everyone who applies for the standard insurance package.
Anyone that can’t afford their basic healthcare cover can file for healthcare allowance with the Dutch Tax Administration (Belastingdienst) for government support to help cover some or all the cost.
Health insurance providers typically offer additional health insurance for secondary care services, such as dentistry, long-term physiotherapy, and vision care. This additional level of insurance is optional, but it’s fairly common for Dutch residents to take it.
You also don’t have to take additional health insurance from the same company that provides you with your basic cover if you find a better price elsewhere. As an expat, this means you’ve got the option of supplementing your mandatory basic insurance with an international health insurance plan.
With the right level of cover, this would not only cover you for additional services in the Netherlands, but it would also provide cover in your home nation, and any other country you choose to visit in between.
In addition to insurance contributions, the Netherlands also has a tax-funded social care programme that covers long-term care. This is known as the Wlz (Wet langdurige zorg) system.
While your mandatory health insurance covers short-term, immediate, and emergency treatments, the long-term care system is, as the name suggests, for longer term issues such as dementia, physical disabilities, chronic illnesses and other mental and physical impairments. Dutch residents can also choose to receive long-term care at home or in a healthcare institute.
All Dutch residents (aged 18 and over) pay for this through salary contributions. The amount you’ll pay will depend on your taxable income, so it’s not a fixed amount (though it is capped). This should be set up for you by your employer, who will automatically allocate a certain percentage of your salary towards your Wlz contribution.
Each year, the Dutch government evaluates the population’s primary care needs in order to establish what insurance companies must include in the basic healthcare package, and what can be offered as an optional extra. That means the list of services included in each level of insurance is subject to change, but as a guide, mandatory health insurance generally includes the following:
Meanwhile, any optional additional health insurance cover will usually include:
The process for accessing the Dutch healthcare system won’t be the same for everyone. It’ll depend on things like your employment status and nationality, so it’s always worth doing plenty of research before you move.
But, with all residents of the Netherlands required to have mandatory health insurance for primary care, it’s important to know exactly how this works. Here are a few things everyone should be aware of when moving to the Netherlands:
When moving to the Netherlands, you’ll first need to register as a resident.
To do this, you must register with the individual area where you’re planning to live. You’ll need to do this in person within the first five days of your arrival. Be sure to make an appointment in advance and find out what documentation you need to bring along. Once registered, they’ll include your details in the country’s Personal Records Database and issue you with a citizen service number (burgerservicenummer - BSN). You need this number to start a job or open a bank account in the Netherlands, as well as to register with an insurance provider.
There are around 40 private healthcare providers to choose from. While they’re all regulated by the government to ensure they offer the same basic level of cover, there’s not an official central portal, so you’ll have to shop around a bit to compare prices and any additional features. Comparison sites are available, including zorgwijzer.1 You’ll usually need to choose a company yourself, but it’s worth checking with your employer to see if they have any agreements in place with a particular provider.
Along with your (burgerservicenummer) BSN, you’ll need your passport or ID as well as personal details, like your bank account number, to register. Health insurance companies aren’t allowed to refuse basic cover to anyone on the grounds of age, lifestyle or state of health, so you should be accepted as long as you have all the correct paperwork. You’ll then be responsible for paying your monthly premiums.
You’re also able to change your health insurance provider once a year. This needs to be done in time for the next calendar year, so the deadline to switch is 31st December each year.
Additional health insurance in the Netherlands covers secondary medical services like physiotherapy and dental care. This is entirely optional, but it’s very common for Dutch residents to have this additional cover.2
The process for taking out an additional, supplementary policy is similar to taking out the basic cover, though you’re not obliged to use the same insurance provider for both. One thing to keep in mind is, unlike the basic cover, insurance companies aren’t required to accept anyone who applies, so they may ask for more information about your health and even refuse to accept you as a client if they wish.
All Dutch residents are legally required to take out the basic level of health insurance, including freelancers, self-employed people and entrepreneurs. You’ll access health insurance the same way as you would if you were employed, but you’ll also need to register for the long-term care system (Wet langdurige zorg – Wlz).
You’ll also need to register for social security and make salary contributions as part of your tax return. The amount you’ll pay is linked to your income, so that will be determined by the Dutch tax and social security authorities.
If you’re the parent or guardian of any children under the age of 18, they’ll be covered by your Dutch insurance policy. They’re covered to the same level as you, so if you have additional cover with a Dutch company, your child will too.
Of course, if you choose to take out global healthcare cover as a supplement to the Dutch basic insurance, you’ll need to check the details of your policy, (but your child will still be covered under your mandatory Dutch insurance). Basic dentistry is also free for under 18s in the Netherlands, regardless of your level of cover.
If you’re planning on becoming a Dutch resident, yes.
For EU or EEA citizens, your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles you to primary medical treatment on the same basis as Dutch citizens during a short visit (less than four months). This includes any temporary stay in the Netherlands during which time your employment and residency remain based in your home nation.
However, your EHIC isn’t a long-term solution. If you’re planning on living in the Netherlands and becoming a resident, you’ll need to get a basic insurance package within four months of your arrival.
The amount you’ll pay for healthcare in the Netherlands will depend on a number of factors, including the insurance policy you select, the amount you earn and what medical services you use.
You’ll pay for your Dutch insurance policy through monthly premiums, for which you’ll need to set up a direct debit. Your mandatory excess (Eigen risico) will also be paid to your insurance company. You can either pre-pay this in ten monthly instalments, which will be added to your regular payments, or you can pay as you go, in which case you’ll get a separate bill.
The way your insurance company reimburses you or covers your medical costs will depend on your plan. Dutch insurance companies will generally offer two types of policy: Naturapolis (in-kind policies) and Restitutiepolis (reimbursement policies).
Many insurers have agreements in place with particular healthcare providers. With a Naturapolis policy, the insurer will deal directly with their contracted healthcare provider to cover your bills. However, these policies usually come with the condition that you’ll only receive a full reimbursement if you visit a contracted healthcare provider. If you go elsewhere, you’ll likely only receive a partial reimbursement or you’ll have to cover all of the costs yourself.
Restitutiepolis policies, on the other hand, give you the freedom to choose any hospital, clinic or doctor you want, regardless of any agreements your insurer has with any other providers. However, in this case, you’d need to pay your medical bills in full and then request reimbursement.
There is also another policy available, it is a combination of the Naturalis and Resitutiepolis policies – known as Combinatiepolis. This is where some of the care you receive may be covered under the Naturalis policy whilst other types of care are covered under the Restitutiepolis policy – a combination of both.
Once registered with an insurance provider, you’ll need to register with a local family doctor. This is crucial when you’re living in the Netherlands, as doctors are the first point of contact for all medical issues except emergencies. They’ll answer your questions, conduct minor examinations, run tests and generally act as gatekeepers to the rest of the healthcare system, so you won’t get very far if you’re not registered with a doctor.
You can find a doctor online or by going to a local town hall. Once you’ve found one that you like, you’ll need to register with them, for which you’ll need your BSN and health insurance details, as well as a valid ID. Depending on the practice, you may be able to register online, but be prepared for the possibility that you may need to register in person. They may also want to have an initial consultation to discuss your medical history and any medications you’re using.
You can usually make an appointment online or on the phone, but you should allow a few days for non-emergency appointments.
To see a specialist in the Netherlands, you’ll need a referral from your doctor. It’s worth noting that waiting times for certain specialists can be weeks, or even months, unless it’s critical and your doctor will only refer you if they believe your medical situation is serious enough. You’ll also not be able to see a specialist without a doctor’s referral.
The phone number for an ambulance in the Netherlands is 112, which is the EU emergency number.
Alternatively, you can go directly to the emergency department of your nearest hospital. If you do this, however, it’s worth calling your family doctor in advance if possible.
One thing you mightn’t expect is that you’ll need to register with your local pharmacy (apotheek) in the same way as you do with a doctor. As a rule, you’ll still be able to visit other pharmacies, but having a regular registered pharmacy can make the process of filling prescriptions and obtaining medication a lot more streamlined.
In some cases, it allows your doctor to email through prescriptions and you may also be able to get medications delivered to you. And, depending on your insurance scheme, you may also be able to get your medication without having to pay up front and wait for a reimbursement.
Dentistry is privatised in the Netherlands so, for over 18s, it won’t be covered by your mandatory basic insurance policy or be covered in full. Dentists (Tandarts) often operate from a single-dentist practice, although in recent years more and more larger practices have opened up with multiple dentists working from the same location.
As a rule, dental care is only insured when you include additional benefits to your policy, but you’ll need to register with a dentist either way. You can find details of local dental practices and prices online. Their websites will guide you as to what you’ll need to do to register, but you’ll need to provide your ID, BSM and any relevant insurance details.
As already outlined, if you become a Dutch resident, private health cover from a Dutch insurance company is mandatory. Once you have that in place, it’s not a legal requirement to take out any other form of private healthcare cover.
If you’re not a Dutch resident, then you won’t be able to take out a Dutch policy, but you’ll still need cover. If you’re an EU or EEA citizen, your EHIC will cover you for primary care for up to four months, but if you’re from elsewhere, you’ll need to make other arrangements. Healthcare services in the Netherlands can be very expensive if you need to pay for them yourself, and you may not actually be granted a visa to enter the country if you don’t have health insurance.
And, if you do become a Dutch resident, you can combine your mandatory basic coverage with our global healthcare plan to ensure you’re covered for both primary and secondary services, both in the Netherlands and throughout the world.
If you’re a resident of the Netherlands, you’ll need to take out the mandatory Dutch health insurance. But when this is supplemented with a global healthcare plan that includes worldwide coverage, you’ll have access to more services and treatment – both in the Netherlands, back home and anywhere else in the world. Whatever your situation, we’ll help you settle into your new life with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’ve always got somewhere to turn for help.
With the Virtual Doctor service, you can have a medical consultation with a real doctor wherever you are in the world – from the comfort of your home, hotel or office. Better still, there are doctors on call and available 24/7.
The Netherlands offers a great work-life balance and excellent career prospects to anyone that chooses to move there. Whether you need comprehensive healthcare cover that’ll give you access to one of the best healthcare systems in Europe, or you need global cover as a supplement to the mandatory Dutch insurance, we’re here to help.
Virtual Doctor lets you speak to a real doctor on the phone or by video from anywhere in the world in a number of different languages, including English, Spanish and Mandarin.4
We think compensation should be simple. Provided we have all the right information, over 80% of all eligible claims are paid within 48 hours.5
From overnight hospital stays to ambulance transport, our Global Health Plans offer emergency cover as standard. And, with optional extras like dental care and out-patient services, you can choose a package that suits you.
Wherever you are in the Netherlands, the last thing you want is to worry about what might happen in an emergency. Our team can arrange for your evacuation and repatriation if you need to go further afield for treatment.
Moving to the Netherlands is sure to provide countless opportunities and a great work-life balance but, as with anywhere, it can take a while to settle in. Our Mind Health service6 is here to connect you to qualified mental health experts for support if ever you need it.
Whether you feel unsure about a diagnosis or treatment plan, want a better understanding of local healthcare practices, need details explained to you in a language of your choice, or if you’d simply like to make sure you’ve explored every available option, our Second Medical Opinion service can help bring you peace of mind.
With excellent career opportunities for adventurous, ambitious professionals, the Netherlands is a great choice for your next move. Our comprehensive expat health insurance is here to provide the added reassurance you need to help you focus on getting to know the country and making the most of your time there.
With a laidback way of life and an excellent standard of long-term healthcare, the Netherlands is popular among retirees. Our plans can meet a range of your needs such as cover for prescriptions, annual health checks, palliative care and disability compensation.
With the promise of a good work-life balance, and one of the best healthcare systems in the world, the Netherlands is a popular destination for families looking for a new adventure. If you’re planning a move, our long-term international health plans can help ensure an unexpected health concern doesn’t interfere with your experience.
*Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm (GMT).
Calls may recorded and/or monitored for quality assurance, training and as a record of the conversation.
The Virtual Doctor, Mind Health and Second Medical Opinion services are provided by Teladoc Health.
The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing
Local insights have been checked by Oban International’s LIME (Local In-Market Expert) network’ - https://obaninternational.com/lime-network/
1 Provided as an example. AXA – Global Healthcare has no affiliation with www.zorgwijzer.nl
2 The Commonwealth Fund – International Health Care System Profiles, Netherlands
3 Zorgwijzer - Expat health insurance
4 The Virtual Doctor service, part of Virtual Care services from AXA is provided by Teladoc Health. Appointments are subject to availability. You do not need to pay or claim for a consultation, but you will be charged for the cost of the initial phone call when using the call back service. You won’t be charged if you request a call back using the app or online portal. Telephone appointments are available 24/7/365 and call-backs are typically within 24 hours. Telephone appointments in Greek are available between 9amand 9pm EET, seven days a week. Video appointments in English, Spanish and Mandarin are available between 8am and midnight UK time, Monday to Friday. Video appointments in German are available between 8am and 8pm CET, Monday to Friday.
5 80.6% of eligible claims submitted online between July 2022 and June 2023, were paid within two days
6 This service provides you with access to six sessions with a psychologist, per mind health concern, per policy year.