Starting life as an expat can get expensive: relocating your family and pets, finding a place to live, visas and flights all add up.
Unlike many other countries in Europe, the Netherlands has no government-sponsored healthcare system. So if you’re moving there, you’ll have to add health insurance premiums to that expense.This isn’t just for your own peace of mind, although it’s certainly recommended for that. Unless you’re a student, if you are living or working in the Netherlands, you are probably legally obliged to take out health insurance.
The trade-off is that unlike many other countries, Dutch insurers aren’t allowed to refuse anyone a basic level of healthcare based on risk.
Once insured, you can rest assured knowing you’ll automatically be covered for GP visits, most prescription medications, ambulance and emergency care, and more.
I’m an expat in the Netherlands. Do I need health insurance?
Put simply, if you’re living in the Netherlands long term, or paying tax in the Netherlands, you will need to take out medical insurance from a private insurance company for yourself and your family.
This applies if:
• You’re working in the Netherlands, and/or
• You are living in the Netherlands for more than a year.
However, if you’re an international student studying in the Netherlands, you may be exempt. Get in touch with the SVB to check.
Making sure you’re covered
Once you move, don’t wait too long to register for health insurance (which you’ll need a residency permit to do). If you don’t apply, you risk a fine.
Once you’ve applied, you’ll then need to register with a GP.
You will also have the option to take out additional insurance to cover you for extras such as dental care, physiotherapy for non-chronic conditions, vaccinations, alternative therapies and homeopathy. However, when it comes to these extras, insurers can refuse cover at their discretion.
Consequences of not applying
If you do not take out a basic insurance policy, the government will do it for you. However, they will first give you several warnings and at least two fines.
If despite this you are still dragging your heels, you will be registered with an insurer which might not be the one you would have chosen, and any premiums will be withdrawn directly from your salary. If you need any medical care before you’re registered with cover, you’ll have to pay for it yourself.
Even though you won’t be charged retroactively for premiums, fines and unexpected medical expenses are definitely worth avoiding. It’s therefore best to register for insurance sooner rather than later.
What will I be insured for?
Quite a bit, actually! The basic health insurance plan covers most essential health and emergency services, including:
• Visits to the GP
• Visits to specialists at public hospitals
• Emergency care, including ambulance services
• Certain prescription medications and medical appliances
• Hospital stay
• Community nursing services
• Primary and secondary mental health care, including treatment by a psychologist or psychiatric treatment
• Speech therapy
• Certain physiotherapies and exercise therapies.
Making sure that residents maintain a healthy lifestyle is a focus of the Dutch government, so the basic healthcare plan also includes up to three sessions with a dietician and for smoking cessation programs.
Good news for parents and parents-to be
Dutch health care providers are very family friendly.
Children aged 17 and under are insured for free under their parent’s cover; just make sure you register them for insurance along with yourself so they’re added to your plan. If you take out additional cover, your children will be covered for that too at no additional charge.
Prenatal care, visits to obstetricians, midwifery and birth care services are all covered under the basic plan. What’s more, you’ll also be covered for up to three IVF treatments.
Physiotherapy and dental care is covered for anyone up to the age of 18 – which parents will no doubt appreciate.
How does it work?
Private health suppliers are responsible for providing all health care. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport is responsible for the accessibility and quality of the healthcare. The Dutch national insurance scheme is administered by the SVB (or the Social Insurance Bank).
Choosing the right cover for you
There are a few main providers, all offering the same basic services. Premiums may differ, though. Price difference could be because different insurers have certain arrangements and agreements with healthcare providers. It could also depend on any additional extras you may like – such as choice of doctor or hospital. On average, you’re looking at about €100 a month.
This comparison site can help you choose your provider.
When making a decision, it will help to consider the following questions:
• Do you have any pre-existing conditions?
• Do you have children?
• Do you plan to travel abroad regularly and need coverage for any medical emergencies?
• What are the premiums and excesses that you can afford and are willing to pay?
What is and isn’t covered might change slightly year to year, so it’s best to check the Government of The Netherlands website for updates on the compulsory standard health insurance scheme.
However, it may be even more helpful to have a chat with other expats about their experiences – there’s nothing like hearing real life stories to give you make sense of the paperwork as well as the pros and cons of various policies.
September 2019 update: For current information on Dutch medical insurance please read our new expat guide to health insurance in The Netherlands.
If you are, or have been, an expat in the Netherlands, what would you recommend to newbies about choosing health insurance? Please share in the comments below, or answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!