Will my Dutch insurance follow me around the EU?
by Brett Andrews
About the Netherlands Healthcare System
Like many countries in the EU, the Netherlands offers world-class health facilities, highly qualified specialists, and ready access to universal healthcare. However, its healthcare funding may be unusual.
The Netherlands uses a combination of public and private healthcare coverage to treat all residents. Here, the government funds all long-term health treatments, while private insurers manage short-term care needs. Short-term care, in this case, usually encompasses GP visits, hospitalizations, specialists, most prescriptions, maternity care, and ambulance services.
All legal residents in the Netherlands are required to carry private health insurance. The Dutch government regulates the private market, ensuring minimum coverages, standards of care, and deductibles.
The Netherlands’ pharmacies (apotheek) can be readily identified by a large green cross. Many are open weekdays from 9:30a – 5:30p; details for pharmacies with weekend or 24-hour service can be found on the door. There’s no out-of-pocket cost for most prescriptions, though there may be a €7 service fee for dispensing medications.
Here are some examples of what residents pay for health services:
|Annual deductible (2023 rate)
|Basic Dutch insurance
||€100 – €135/month
||€0 after deductible
|Prescription copay maximum (annual)
|Maternity care (prenatal & postnatal)
Finding a Physician
To find your general practitioner (GP), simply check availability for the physicians in your area, either online or by phone. You can choose any GP you prefer and usually can schedule an appointment within three days. Dutch physicians tend to be quite direct with patients, so be sure to do the same in order to get your medical needs met.
In order to see a specialist in the public system, you’ll need a referral from your GP. Specialists generally see patients at hospitals or specialized clinics. Waiting lists are longer to see specialists compared to GPs, often taking several weeks to be seen.
All residents must obtain public healthcare. Apply at your local municipality for your Citizen Service Number, or burgerservicenummer (BSN). With this, you can register for health insurance under one of the Dutch-approved providers; you’ll also need your passport and other personal details like bank account info. Once approved, you’ll receive your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and may register with your GP of choice. Everyone is subject to an annual deductible, though GP, maternity care, and district nursing remain free of charge.
Since residents cannot opt out of the public system, private insurance exists only to enhance the public option instead of replacing it. Private options offer more comfortable hospital facilities and cover adult dental care, vision, and drug copayments. Over 80% of residents keep private coverage, which they usually purchase through their public insurance providers.
Out-of-pocket payments are generally not recommended for expat residents in the Netherlands. Private treatments are prohibitively expensive and paid wholly out of pocket. All residents must carry the public health insurance plan, at minimum, so it’s uncommon to pay for healthcare in this way.
- Schedule final appointments with your primary care physician and any specialists you see.
- Research your medications for availability in the Netherlands and find alternatives where needed.
- Stock up on prescription refills until you can get to the pharmacy in the Netherlands. It’s a dance because you’ll save money by filling your prescriptions in the Netherlands, but it may take time for you to learn your way around.
- Print out and keep photographic records of all prescriptions.
- Request your medical records and, ideally, upload them to a cloud server where you can access them anywhere. Alternatively, printouts, desktop files, and thumb drives also work.
- Ask your providers for referrals abroad. You never know!
- Apply for private insurance to cover your first months here.
- For public healthcare, get your BSN from the local municipality and choose your mandatory plan from a Dutch-approved provider. Use your EHIC from the insurer to register with your GP.
- For private healthcare, apply for private insurance from a Dutch-approved provider. Visit your expat Facebook group or other forums to ask for recommendations.
- See your GP and get prescriptions and referrals.