Dutch Health Insurance: 5 Things You Should Know
In the Netherlands, health insurance is mandatory. Even if you have a great health insurance back in your own country, you will only be able to take advantage of it in the Netherlands for a short amount of time. As soon as you start working here, you will be obliged to get a Dutch Health Insurance. Whilst this may seem quite daunting in the beginning, I have your back and are here to help! At the end of this article you will be able to find a comparison tool for the best health insurance. Make sure to take advantage of it. But first, here are the 5 things you should know about setting up a Dutch Health Insurance:
1. Health insurance is mandatory in the Netherlands (but check if you actually need to get it yourself anyway!)
This may sound silly seeing as we just told you, you will very likely need one, but you should check nevertheless. Here are the criteria for needing a Dutch Health Insurance:
- EU/EEA/Swiss Citizens- EU/EEA/Swiss citizens that are living in the Netherlands on a temporary basis, not exceeding one year can make use of their European Union Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in order to avail healthcare. However, whether their stay is temporary or not needs to be ratified by the EHIC. If not considered temporary, they would too have to apply for the standard Dutch health insurances.
- Employees- Every employee, irrespective of the field or position you work in and the nationality of your birth, will have to apply for a Dutch public health insurance. So in short if you’re working in the Netherlands, you need to be insured by the Netherlands.
- Citizens not belonging to EU- Non-EU citizens who have been staying in the Netherlands for more than four months are required to apply for an acquire a standard Dutch public health insurance. Some might have to apply for private health insurances owing to personal reasons or illnesses.
- Students- Foreign students in the Netherlands, who have a part-time job or employment of any sort, are required to apply for the standard Dutch public health insurance. EU/EEA/Swiss students are usually covered by the EHIC for the whole duration of their study (even if this exceeds one year). However non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens (regardless of employment status) will have to acquire health insurances from private agencies in order to cover their healthcare costs.
- Children- Children who are under the age of 18 years are looked after by the Dutch health insurances of their parents.
You should also check with your employer first whether the company will set up health insurance for you. The reason you should take advantage of this option, if it is a possibility, is because companies usually get better rates and discounts so it could be a good way to save you some money.
Keep in mind that if you do not get a health insurance from the Netherlands (in case you are obliged to) this may result in a fine of 386,50€ (in 2018). If you fail to get your own insurance after several warnings, one will be provided for you and deducted from your monthly salary (without you being able to choose between providers). In addition to fines, keep in mind you will have to pay any medical expenses you may have out of your own pocket.
2. Dutch health insurance always has an “own risk” (“eigen risico”)
While in other countries some health insurances tend to cover your expenses fully, in the Netherlands you will always have an “own risk” (or “eigen risico” as the Dutchies call it). How much this is, varies from insurance to insurance. Typically the rule is: the more you pay per month, the less you’ll pay in “own risk.” Essentially, when picking your insurance you get to decide how much you want to pay as an “own risk” every year. As an expat this concept can feel quite hard to grasp, so here is how it works:
- Every month you will get charged for your health insurance. This amount can change yearly but will remain the same monthly. Seeing as insurances here work on a yearly basis if you are coming to the Netherlands in March, for instance, you still have to get a health insurance for the rest of the year.
- Basic health care is completely covered by your insurance: going to your family doctor (or a gynaecologist) is totally covered by your insurance. All you have to do is show up with your card to your appointment and you will not be charged. You can see exactly what is fully covered by your insurance in your contract details.
- Should you need specialized care (or medication, examinations, etc) this will count towards your yearly “own risk.” Here is where it can get confusing; if you go to your family doctor and they prescribe medication or extra examinations (including blood tests) your insurance will not fully cover it. Let’s imagine you have a yearly own risk of 385€ (quite common): what this means is that at the end of the year, the maximum you will pay out of your own pocket is 385€ total. If you incur no medical costs that year, you will not have to pay anything (besides your monthly premium). If you had to grab some medication and it cost you 20€, that is all you will pay. If you had surgery and it amounted to 700€, once again you will only pay 385€. The two things that are important to remember are: 1) medical bills of any kind will only be charged to you at the end of the year, so you will never have to pay at the pharmacy when getting prescribed medication or after a big surgery and 2) the own risk amount is not “per incident” but “per year.”
3. All Dutch insurances have two parts: basic & additional coverage
Even though you can get an insurance from one of hundreds of providers, the basic package will always be the same as it is mandated by law. This concerns the coverage of things like your family doctor and gynaecologists (and you can find out more about basic coverage by looking at premiums or using our useful tool below!). The additional coverage concerns things other than basic healthcare, such as dental care, physiotherapy, pregnancy, travel (medical care outside the Netherlands) alternative medicine etc. There are other factors you can decide on, such as deciding that you want to be able to every hospital/doctor (“volledige keuze”), a very wide coverage (“zeer ruime keuze”), wide coverage (“ruime keuze”) or limited coverage (“beperkte keuze”). This also why you will have to fill out your postcode/zipcode when signing up for an insurance: once you are insured you can see to which hospitals you can go. If you live in and/or around a big city it a (very) wide coverage should work.
4. You can only switch insurances on a yearly basis
This one is quite simple but still important to know: you can switch from health insurer once a year (this has to be done at the 1st of Jan). So it is a good idea to start looking and researching insurances in November/December whether you are new to the country or simply are looking to switch insurance providers. You can also change your healthcare package yearly but only at the beginning of the calendar year (adding additional coverage, changing the “own risk,” etc.), after that you will not be able to make any more changes.
5. You will have a go-to doctor (and have to stick to him/her unless it is a real emergency)
Once you have chosen an insurance provider and have signed up for an insurance, you will have to find a doctor clinic (“huisarts”) near you. Your address will limit how far this clinic can be from your home, which is actually an advantage because it means your doctor will always be close to your home. Once you find a clinic, you will need to fill in a form (usually on their website) to find out if they have spaces available (every doctor is limited to having a certain amount of patients in their care). Once you choose a doctor you will have to stick to him or her. In the Netherlands, you may only go directly to hospitals in emergency situations (imminent death, exposed limbs, etc). Any other speciality care will have to be prescribed by your doctor (or at the hospital, they will not look at you). Getting an appointment with your family doctor on the same day is typically not hard if you call early in the morning. If it happens that they are out for the day you may get temporarily appointment to another doctor from that clinic for that day.
I hope this guide cleared up things for you and helped you understand the Dutch Health Insurance System better!