Navigating Dutch healthcare

Welcome to the Netherlands

Healthcare in the Netherlands is ranked amongst the best in the world. Some things, however, may work differently from what you’re used to. For example, the GP (general practitioner, ‘huisarts’ in Dutch) is the first port of call for care.

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In case of emergency

Call 112 in case of a life-threatening situation. The operator will guide you to to the appropriate help from ambulance, police or fire department.
Stay calm. Dial 112 yourself, if possible. Wait to speak to the operator. State your name, describe what happened, who is involved and where you are. Follow the operator’s advice. If anything changes, pass the new information on to 112.
Are you in need of medical care at night or at the weekend, and is it too urgent to wait until the GP’s practice opens? Call your GP. You will be informed as to who is the GP on call in your area. Usually you will be referred to the Central GP out-of-hours practice, where you can arrange to see a GP.

I need a doctor

In the Netherlands, the GP is the first port of call for all medical questions and concerns. They will refer you to a medical specialist if required.
You can see your GP for all physical and psychological complaints. The GP can write a prescription for medication, which you can collect at the pharmacy. They also perform minor surgeries and swabs and treat children’s ailments. The GP also keeps track of your medical file. Are you in need of other or specialist care? Your GP will refer you to a specialist at the hospital. In the Netherlands, your GP is your access to all medical care.
If you are planning to spend a longer period of time in the same place in the Netherlands, the best thing to do is to register with a GP near you. That way you can contact them if you have any medical issues. Registering is not obligatory but it is advised. Your own GP knows your circumstances and logs any changes in your file. If you do not have your own GP, but you find yourself in need of medical care, you will need to go in search of a local doctor. Your employer can help your with that. This GP will then charge a one-off fee (the passer-by tariff). You can claim this back from your health insurer at a later date.

You can use an online search engine to find a GP near you, or use the following website: https://www.kiesuwhuisarts.nl/.
You can also ask colleagues or your employer for reccomendations.

Even if you are not registered, you can see a GP. You are then a ‘passer-by’ and will need to offer a form of ID, using a passport or ID card. If you are not registered, you may need to front the bill there and then.

If you are a temporary resident of West-Brabant, you can often register at Arene online GP practice.

A special App allows you to contact your Arene GP in your own language. You can also use the App to make an appointment or order specific medication. A GP appointment takes place through (video) calls as much as possible. This saves you having to travel.

If the doctor needs to examine or treat you physically, they will refer you to a GP practice near you.

Visit Arene

If you have Dutch healthcare insurance, a visit to your GP is free of charge.

For further research, specific medication or for a consultation with a specialist, you have to pay an initial amount, capped at the level of your ‘excess’ (‘eigen risico’ in Dutch – more information on this can be found under “Health Insurance”).
Some insurance policies don’t require you to pay an ‘excess’ at all.

Make sure you carry your ‘zorgpas’ (health insurance card) with you, or alternatively your ID and BSN (citizen service number), when visiting your GP.

If you are not registered with a GP you may need to front the bill on the spot. You can claim this back from your health insurer.

If you require a medical specialist, you first see your own GP, who will refer you (to the gynaecologist or internist, for example). You can’t go directly to a medical specialist yourself. Your GP knows which specialist you require and where to find them. You can then make the appointment yourself. The fee for the medical specialist is covered by your Dutch healthcare insurance, but you pay the first part of these costs yourself, up to a maximum amount defined by your ‘excess’ (Dutch – ‘eigen risico’ – more on this under “Health Insurance”). Some insurers don’t require you to pay an ‘excess’ at all.

Do I need to have health insurance?

If you are living or working in the Netherlands, you are obliged to have health insurance. If you fail to do so, you risk a fine.
The Dutch healthcare insurance is called the Basic Insurance (Basisverzekering). This basic insurance is the same for anyone over the age of 18, regardless of gender, age or health. You can get this insurance yourself, but often your employer does it for you. The Dutch government decides annually what is and isn’t covered by the basic insurance. For an additional fee, you can insure yourself for other medical costs, such as dental care.

The legal basic healthcare insurance comprises the following:

  • Basic medical care; including care provided by GPs, medical specialists and midwives
  •  Hospital treatment
  •  Dental care up to 18 years of age
  •  Postnatal care (a contribution applies)
  •  Under certain conditions: therapies such as physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and nutritional advice.

Here you can read what is not covered by the basic insurance.

In the Netherlands we have nearly 40 health insurance providers. You can choose an insurer that suits your needs with the help of websites such as Zorgwijzer. Most of the time, your employer will be able to arrange your health insurance for you.

The basic insurance is the same for all health insurance providers. Some providers will tell you which medical specialists or hospitals to go to for treatment.

Monthly premiums are around €125.

It is often possible to take out additional insurance for healthcare that is not covered by the basic insurance, such as dental care. The cover and premiums for these additional policies can differ depending on your insurer.

In order to register with a health insurance company, you need a BSN (citizen service number), which you are usually provided with when you register at the local council (‘gemeente’ in Dutch) for the area you will be living in.

It is obligatory to take out Dutch health insurance if you live or work in the Netherlands. Even if you have health insurance in your country of origin. If you are in the Netherlands but not yet working, you can use the health insurance you have in your country of origin. Ask your health insurance provider in your country of origin for an EHIC card in order to do so. Health insurance is obligatory from the moment you register as a resident in a Dutch municipality, or begin work for a Dutch employer. You have four months to take out a health insurance. In the meantime you are insured with the provider’s basic insurance. If you register with an insurance company within 4 months, you need to pay back the premium for the first months during which you were automatically insured. If you register with an insurance provider after the period of 4 months, you only start paying your premium as of that moment. You are then not required to pay for the previous months. However, you will then not be compensated for any care you may have received in the period before registering with the insurance company.
For Basic Health Insurance you pay the insurance company a monthly premium dependent on the kind of policy and the value of the excess you have chosen. This comes to roughly €125 per month. If your employer has taken out health insurance on your behalf, they will deduct this from your salary. For registered family members over the age of 18, you need to pay a separate premium. Children under the age of 18 are insured on one of their parents’ policies for free, but they need to be registered with the insurance company. Register a newborn before the age of 4 months. Premiums vary between health insurance companies. Compare premiums when you select a provider. You (or you employer) pay a monthly premium for the entire time you’re insured, regardless of whether you make use of healthcare services or not.
Of the costs covered by your basic insurance, you pay the first €385,- (2021) yourself. We call this the obligatory excess. Your insurance will cover costs over and above this amount. For a consultation with you GP you don’t pay anything at all, not even any excess. Some policies have no excess or contributions. With these policies you don’t pay anything yourself. The excess is counts for anyone over the age of 18. Not for your children. You pay the excess alongside your premium. The excess runs for an entire calendar year (1 January – 31 December). You finish your entire excess before you receive compensation through your insurance.

If you have a low income, you can apply for healthcare benefits at the Belastingdienst (tax office). You will then receive a monthly amount to cover part of your health insurance costs. Sometimes your employer can apply on your behalf.

You are only eligible for healthcare benefits if:

  • You are 18 years of age or older
  •  You have Dutch health insurance
  •  Your income is not too high (threshold 2021 € 30.918 or a combined total of €39.972 if you have a partner)
  •  Your capital is below € 117.107 (or a combined total of € 148.477 if you have a partner)
  •  You have the Dutch nationality or a valid residency permit.

I need a different type of healthcare

If you need care from a different kind of physician or care provider you may require a referral from your GP.

If you need a dentist you can see one without a referral from your GP. You will need to register with a dentist first.

You can find a dentist near you via an online search engine or through this site. You can also ask for recommendations from colleagues or your employer.

The maximum fees for dental treatments have been determined by the Dutch Healthcare Authority.

Dental care is not covered by the Dutch Basic Health Insurance.

It is often possible to take out additional insurance that partially covers dental healthcare costs.

If you need a gynaecologist, you need to see your GP first. They will refer you to a suitable gynaecologist. Healthy pregnancies and standard births are overseen by a midwife. You only meet with a gynaecologist in the event of complications.
For other medical specialists, such as neurologists, cardiologists, internists or paediatricians, you need a referral from a GP. You also need a referral for the hospital. In case of a life-threatening situation: dial 112.
If you are suffering from mental health issues, you need to see your GP first. Mild psychological problems can be treated by a GP, often in collaboration with a Mental Health Support Practician. Your GP may also offer online counselling(e-health). If more specialist care is required, the GP may refer you to a psychologist or psychotherapist.
You do not require a referral from your GP if you want to see a physiotherapist. Physiotherapy is not covered by the basic health insurance. If you think you have a problem with your mobility, you can make an appointment directly with a physiotherapist. You can find a physiotherapist via an online search engine or via this site. You can also ask for recommendations from colleagues or your employer. A physiotherapist is a healthcare professional specialised in physical problems related to posture and movement. They can treat muscles and/or joints or help with exercises designed to stimulate the body in the natural healing process. Examples include sports injuries, problems brought on by your profession or posture, small-scale incidents such as a fall, or simple bad luck such as waking up with a bad neck or acute lower back pain.

Youth Healthcare Service (JGZ) is a healthcare service for all children under the age of 18. It’s free of charge.

The JGZ advises parents on the care of their infants and small children. They monitor the growth and development of children and offer advice on the upbringing. The JGZ is also responsible for the immunisation of children.

If you move to the Netherlands and you are registered with the council as having young children, the JGZ will contact you. You can also ask your GP or contact the local JGZ yourself by searching online for the ‘JGZ’ in your area.

Newborns:
In the first few weeks after delivery, you receive several visits from someone from JGZ.

They perform the neonatal blood spot screening (or: heel prick test) and a hearing test.
They also ask after your pregnancy, the delivery, your home situation and the general wellbeing of yourself and your child.
You can ask any questions you like during these visits.

Baby Heath Clinic:
During the first four years of your child’s life, you will be invited to attend an appointment at the consultation office on several occasions. The general development of your child will be discussed, amongst which:

  • general health, growth and development
  • speech, hearing, sight and movement
  • nutrition
  • upbringing and the home situation

Immunisation:
The JGZ also executes the national vaccination program, which protects children from infectious diseases.
The vaccinations continue until the age of 12.

During the school period:
During the school period you and your child will be invited on several occasions to attend a health and development check.

In the Netherlands, we have a good preventive healthcare program. If you are registered as a resident in a Dutch municipality, you automatically qualify for the programme. Most checks and follow-up treatments are covered by the basic health insurance.

What does the program include?

Pregnancy and postnatal care
There are screening programs during pregnancy and for after the birth of a child. 
Children are monitored and vaccinated between the ages of 0 and 12 years.

Screening programs
At later ages, there are general screening programs for diseases such as breast cancer, cervical cancer and bowel cancer. You will receive an invitation for these screenings, which are performed at the GP’s office or at a public health centre. With your invitation, you will receive information regarding the purpose and the course of the screening.

Participation is voluntary. If you do not wish to partake, you can return the invitation.

Programs for people with an increased risk
There are also screenings for those at additional risk of specific diseases such as heart or vascular disease, lung disease or STDs.

The flu vaccine is offered free of charge to those with an increased risk of getting seriously ill from a flu infection.

Care by medical specialists, such as the gynaecologist or the internist, is covered by the basic health insurance, provided your GP referred your. This also goes for the psychologist. The dentist and physiotherapist are not covered by the basic insurance. You have to pay for these yourself. It is possible to take out an extra policy to cover these costs. Sometimes the services are free of charge. The JGZ (Youth) Physician is free of charge. Ask the medical professional what the costs will be when you make an appointment or contact your insurance company to check whether this treatment is covered.

I need medication

Medication is available at the pharmacy, drug store and supermarket. Certain medication can be bought freely. Others require a doctor’s prescription.

Prescribed medication – at the pharmacy:
For prescribed medication, such as antibiotics, you need a prescription from a doctor. The drugs will be provided by a pharmacist who can give you instructions.

Medication without a prescription – drug store or supermarket:
Freely attainable medication, such as pain killers, cough syrup, throat lozenges, skin creams, antacids or antihistamines for hay fever can be bought free of prescription at a drug store (Etos, Kruidvat, DA) or a supermarket.

Buying medication online:
If you want to order medication online, please do so from a recognised supplier. Only then can you be certain the medication is safe.

For some medication, you require a prescription. You can get one from your GP or doctor. It may be that your GP deems a particular type of medication unnecessary, trusting the body’s own healing ability
If you use chronic medication for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems or a psychiatric condition, for example, contact your GP. They can get you a repeat prescription for your medication and any further monitoring of your condition.
You may need antibiotics. If so, your GP will prescribe them. Many diseases, however, are caused by viruses. In such cases, antibiotics have no effect. Besides, they also kill the good bacteria in your body and weaken your immune system. In the Netherlands, we are therefore reluctant to prescribe antibiotics
Are you picking up prescribed medication from your pharmacy? This is usually covered by your health insurance. You do, however, pay your excess. For certain medication, you need to pay an small amount yourself. This is called the ‘contribution’ (‘Eigen bijdrage’ in Dutch). You pay a contribution if there is a cheaper version of the drug on offer which you could take (you can ask whether the cheaper variety is also suitable). The contribution is capped at €250 per year. Some policies have no excess or contribution. With these, you don’t pay anything yourself. Some medication, such as painkillers, skin cream or cough syrup, is not covered. You can buy these yourself at the drugstore. House brands are often cheaper.

What to do upon arrival in the Netherlands?

In order to get access to the Dutch healthcare system, you need to take a number of steps. Ask your employer what has already been arranged for you.
The council will provide you and your family members with a BSN (citizen service number). Sometimes you require a residency permit in order to receive a BSN (Your employer can help you with this).
DigiD is a digital form of identification which you require in order to gain access to the government’s online services, certain healthcare insurers and many healthcare providers. Ask your employer whether you need a DigiD.
Take out health insurance for yourself and the members of your family. In most cases you are obliged to take out Dutch health insurance. This requires a BSN (citizen service number). If you are not insured through your employer, you mostly need only a Dutch address and a bank account.
If you will be living in an area for a longer period of time, register with a GP near you. In order to register with a GP you require valid healthcare insurance and a BSN (citizen service number).
This healthcare system is amongst the best of the world, but some things may be different from what you’re used to . This guide will help you with that. Please note that you cannot go to hospital or see a specialist without a referral from a GP, unless it concerns a life-threatening situation, in which case dial 112.

Covid-19

You can see and hear all information about Covid-19 here https://corona.steffie.nl/en/
https://www.rodekruis.nl/english/

Further official information about COVID-19 can be found on the following pages:
RIVM (National Institute for Health and Environment)
Questions and backgrounds RIVM
National Government

For everyone

  • Wash your hands well and often.
  • Keep 1.5 metres distance from others
  • Stay home if you have symptoms and get tested immediately.

If you test positively for COVID-19, you are obliged to report this: Call 0800-1351

If you have a cold (blocked or runny nose, throat ache, cough) you do the following:

  • Have yourself tested
    You can make an appointment for a test via the following website: coronatest.nl or by calling 0800-1202.
    You will be asked a number of questions on the website or phone. After that you can make your appointment for a test.
    You need a BSN (citizen service number) and you will receive the results within 48 hours.
  • stay at home
  • wait for the results
  • Do not do your groceries or receive visitors. Ask others to get your groceries for you or have them delivered.
  • Members of your household without symptoms are subject to the same rules.
  • Once you have been free of symptoms for 24 hours, you may go out.

When to call the GP?
You call the GP or ambulance service if one or more of the following situations apply:

  • your illness has been getting worse for several days
  • you are having more and more trouble breathing (when walking, for example)
  • You are getting more and more confused
  • You have had a fever for more than 3 days
  • You are over the age of 70, suffering from a chronic disease or a weakened immune system AND develop a fever.

Do NOT go to your GP, the ambulance service or the hospital. This could cause infection of others.

In life-threatening situations, always phone 112.

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