Health insurance in the Netherlands

As an expat, you will notice that managing your affairs in the Netherlands works somewhat differently than you may be used to. This also applies to your insurance. It probably isn’t very hard to arrange insurance for liability, your home and your car; you can apply for these via brokers who specialise in expat insurance. Arranging for your health insurance however is an altogether different story. Every Dutch citizen is legally obligated to apply for health insurance, or the so-called basiszorgverzekering, ‘basic health insurance’; but how does this work for internationals?

Should I apply for health insurance as an expat?

Most expats in the Netherlands also have a legal obligation to apply for the Dutch basic health insurance. The Dutch government can help determine if you need to: the SVB (Sociale Verzekeringsbank) can check this for you, and provide a form you can fill out for that purpose.

Once you receive a response, you’ll find yourself in one of two situations:

Situation 1: You are required to apply for the Dutch basic health insurance

In this case you are obligated, just like every Dutch citizen, to apply for the Dutch basic health insurance. This basic insurance plan is offered by nine different insurance companies in the Netherlands. The Dutch government mandates what is covered under the basic health insurance plan, and insurers cannot refuse to cover you regardless of pre-existing conditions.

Currently, the basic health insurance plan covers:

  • Visits to the GP/family doctor (huisarts)
  • Visits to specialists at public hospitals
  • Emergency care
  • Prescription medication

If you fall into this category, information about your health insurance options is fairly accessible online. Healthcare providers will also be able to help you, but expect to encounter a language barrier in some cases.

Eigen risico (own risk or deductible)

Everyone covered under a Dutch basic health insurance plan has a mandatory deductible called the ‘eigen risico’. This is an amount you pay out-of-pocket for your health care expenses. For 2017, this amount (as determined by the government) is €385,00. Once your healthcare expenses exceed this amount, your insurance will start covering healthcare costs.

Some types of treatments are always covered directly by the insurer and therefore available without charge to you, this includes visits to the family doctor and certain forms of maternity care.

Children

Children to the age of 17 are insured for free by the basic health insurance policy of their parents. If the parents have supplemental coverage, their children will have this coverage for free as well. Keep in mind however that your child should be registered to one of the two parents’ policies. Contact your insurer to make sure this is the case.

Costs

Although the coverage of the basic health insurance is the same at all nine insurance companies, the insurance premiums may differ per insurer. Every insurer can have different agreements with healthcare providers, which leads to price differences. It is worth your time to compare different insurance plans to see which offer suits you best.

Get advice

If you receive notification that you need basic health insurance, it is advisable to apply as soon as possible. If you do not apply, you risk a high fine. You also have the option of applying for supplemental insurance coverage alongside your basic package, i.e. for dental care, physiotherapy or alternative medication.

Independent, specialised brokers can help you with finding a suitable insurer.

Situation 2: You are not eligible for Dutch basic health insurance

Some internationals in the Netherlands may not be able to apply for basic health insurance. These cases include:

  • International students in the country for studying purposes only
  • Children (18 or older) of expats without employment in the Netherlands
  • PhD candidates in the Netherlands with no salary from the host university
  • Seconded expats
  • Temporary residents/seasonal workers

If the SVB has determined that you cannot apply for insurance, Dutch basic health insurance companies cannot help you further. These insurers generally do not have alternative health insurance plans for your situation.

You might also encounter issues at healthcare providers such as family doctors and hospitals. As you are not registered as having basic health insurance in the national database, and this may lead to miscommunication and confusion.

Solution

There are special insurance packages available for your situation, and it is advisable to ask the help of an independent insurance consultant specialised in expat insurance. They can assess which product fits your situation best. They can also advise on other important, non-mandatory coverage such as for liability, your home and your car.

Some internationals may have access to a European health insurance card, provided by an insurance company or the national health fund in their home country. This EHIC will grant you access to healthcare providers in the Netherlands for medically necessary care. However, you might still want to consider supplemental insurance.