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The healthcare system in the Netherlands underwent significant reform in 2006 and has since developed into one that is highly trusted and valued by citizens and tourists alike. Indeed the Dutch healthcare system is envied globally as one of the more advanced and affordable for residents. Find out all you need about the coverage available whether you plan on living in the Netherlands or visiting on holiday.
Standard of healthcare in the Netherlands
The healthcare system in the Netherlands is widely regarded as one of the best in Europe. In the Euro health consumer index – a report which compares European countries on various standards of healthcare provision including patient rights, accessibility, range and reach of services and more – the Netherlands was ranked second in 2018. This was behind only Switzerland, and it was ranked number one for the reports in the preceding three years. In fact, it is the only nation to have always been ranked in the top three of the Euro health consumer index since 2005.
Most hospitals in the Netherlands are privately-run, rather than owned by the government. However, they are non-profit organisations, as are health insurance companies. This ensures a focus on patient care, rather than on making money. There are three types of hospitals and you may be treated at any – university hospitals, general hospitals and teaching hospitals.
Healthcare when living and working in the Netherlands
All residents of the Netherlands, whether permanent or working in the country for a contracted period of time, are legally required to have health insurance. If you are moving to the Netherlands for work, you have four months to take out a policy. Anyone who does not take out a policy is liable to be fined and could also face huge medical bills should they require treatment. The fines stand at around €400 and after two fines have been levied, you’ll simply be assigned a health insurance plan anyway and have the cost deducted from your salary.
You can be exempt from this law depending on certain religious grounds, and anyone under the age of 18 also needn’t take out a policy, as they are covered by their parents’ premiums. Also if you’re a UK citizen who has moved to the Netherlands, but you’re receiving a UK state pension or other exportable benefits, you may qualify for the UK government to fund your state healthcare in the Netherlands.
The universal insurance policies will cover a wide range of basic treatments and needs, but most residents will opt for additional coverage as it is usually not a large increment and can help ensure you aren’t required to pay for essential treatments yourself. The basic insurance policy that is required by law has an average cost of €111 per month, with checks in place to ensure affordability including income-based compensation for those on low-paying jobs.
It is also illegal for an insurance company to vary a premium based on medical factors, your ages or your circumstances – you won’t pay more if you have a medical condition or are obese, for example. This helps ensure that everyone can pay for their insurance.
The cost of health insurance is certainly value for money when considered against the one-off costs of treatment. Taking the average reported costs from 2018, a visit to a doctor during working hours will cost €47 while an out-of-hours appointment is €92. A one-night stay in hospital will come to €146 while any visit to the emergency department is €256. And this is before any medication is required which would also be chargeable.
A second insurance, called Wet langdurige zorg (Wlz), covers residents for long-term nursing costs, such as care in retirement or palliative care for enduring illnesses. This is government funded and as such does not need to be paid for by the patient so that all residents regardless of insurance premium will be granted the right treatments as they grow old.
In the case of the UK leaving the EU without a deal in October 2019, the Netherlands government has already announced a transition period running until July 2020 where anyone from the UK will retain the right to work and live, and therefore access healthcare as long as they have insurance, within the Netherlands. After July 2020, the temporary residence permit will expire and a new national residence permit will need to be sought to have access to the same rights and services.
What’s included in basic health insurance
The government defines what is covered in basic healthcare, so this won’t be something you’ll need to think about when choosing your provider.
Basic healthcare insurance will cover GP visits and hospital care along with medication required, along with selected specialist treatments. It also covers dental treatments for under 18s, maternity care and some mental health treatments. General health services, like advice for diet or resources to help quit smoking, are also covered by basic healthcare insurance.
If you require specialist, non-emergency treatment while living in the Netherlands you must be referred by your local doctor, you cannot book to see a specialist directly. Specialist doctors generally work out of a hospital and you may have a long wait period before your appointment. Visits to a specialist doctor will be covered by your health insurance but if you need additional treatment such as physiotherapy, there may be a surcharge unless you’ve taken out additional premiums to cover the cost.
Registering for healthcare while living in the Netherlands
If you’re moving to the Netherlands, getting set up for medical care is relatively straight-forward. First, you’ll need to get your citizen service number, known as a BSN. You’ll get this upon registering your details with the local council.
Then you need to choose your insurance provider. The cost differences will be relatively minimal, with minor differences to policy costs and excess amounts, but it’s worth looking at the additional coverage packages to see which suits you best before deciding on one. You can technically take out basic insurance with one provider and additional coverage with another, but this may prove messy from a billing perspective when you do need treatment.
Once you’re insured, you’ll then be sent confirmation of your policy along with an insurance card. You’ll need to carry this card with you and present it any time you’re receiving treatment so that the medical facility knows where to send your bill. Often this card will double as your EHIC – it may literally be the reverse of your insurance card – so if you’re living in the Netherlands but want to travel throughout the rest of the EU you’ll still be covered for basic healthcare.
Then it’s simply a case of registering with a doctor as you would in the UK. You may need to join a waiting list but there will be plenty of options to choose from, with a full list of services available from the Town Hall where you live.
Most local doctors speak English so language should not be a barrier when you register. You’ll likely have a telephone consultation when you first register, to establish your health and background, as well as any special care needs.
Healthcare when travelling in the Netherlands
Anyone travelling to the Netherlands will be provided with emergency medical care should they require it, although you should expect to be charged for this service. You won’t need to pay if you carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), as this will allow you access to all state-provided healthcare services in the country. If you have an EHIC and you are asked to pay, you are probably being treated privately and should seek alternative options if you don’t have the funds to cover the treatment.
Along with private treatment, you won’t be covered by the EHIC if you need to be brought back to the UK, for any mountain rescue services or illness while on a cruise. You should still also take out travel insurance to make sure you’re covered for any treatments above the basic level provided by the state insurance, otherwise unexpected illnesses could still see you with a hefty bill. If you don’t have an EHIC but you are travelling from an EU/EEA country or Switzerland, you will be charged for treatments but can claim a refund from your home country’s health system at a later date.
If you have an EHIC but aren’t carrying it with you when you travel, you can avoid being directly charged by seeking a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC). You can get one of these by calling your country’s Overseas Healthcare Service and asking them to send one to you to present to the hospital. The phone number for the UK’s Overseas Healthcare Service is +44 1912 181 999.
Anyone with pre-existing medical conditions should make sure they have adequate travel insurance before visiting the Netherlands, otherwise they may not be covered for treatments related to that illness.
Healthcare after Brexit
If you’re travelling from the UK to the Netherlands and planning to do so after the UK has left the EU, your provision for healthcare may change, particularly in the case of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. The Dutch government is working with the UK to create provisions for people who visit the country, but you should treat it as you would any visit to a non-EU country to make sure you’re covered and take out a travel insurance policy that is sufficient to help with any emergency or pre-existing medical conditions.
Healthcare while studying in the Netherlands
Anyone visiting the Netherlands to study is subject to the same rules as travellers – as long as you have an EHIC, you are covered for basic healthcare treatments but you should take out insurance for any medical care you may need above-and-beyond this. Your educational institution will apply for a residence permit for you, but you’ll be covered by the EHIC (or your travel insurance if the UK leaves the EU without a deal).
If, however, you take on a part-time job while you are studying that is not an internship as part of your course, you will be required to take out health insurance with a Dutch provider.
Emergency healthcare in the Netherlands
The telephone number for emergency services in the Netherlands, including the ambulance service, is 112. If you require urgent treatment and you’re in a hotel or publicly owned business, make sure you’re clear on whether you need an ambulance – ask for a doctor and you will likely get a private doctor, rather than transport to the local A&E.
Dental treatments in the Netherlands
Standard dental treatment in the Netherlands is not covered as part of the state healthcare system. If you are living in the Netherlands you can either pay for each treatment as required, or you can usually choose an add-on service for your insurance policy which will cover most basic dental needs. Emergencies which pose a risk to your general health will be covered by the state system and therefore your basic insurance.
Prescriptions in the Netherlands
Prescriptions are charged in the Netherlands, for the cost of the medication and also any related service. The cost will vary by diagnosis, pharmacy and medicine, rather than being a set cost, but it’s usually in the region of 12 euros. If you’re travelling and using an EHIC, you can get a 50% discount on the cost. UK pensioners who are claiming their state pension will only need to pay 10% of the cost on presentation of a valid EHIC.
Medical terms in Dutch
As mentioned, most doctors and medical practitioners in the Netherlands speak English as well as Dutch, so you shouldn’t have any problems communicating. However, it may be useful to know some simple Dutch words to use when asking someone in public for assistance, particularly in an emergency.
- Accident – Ongeval
- Ambulance – Ambulance
- Broken bone – Gebroken bot
- Dentist – Tandarts
- Doctor – Huisarts
- Emergency – Noodgeval
- Heart attack – Hartaanval
- Hospital – Ziekenhuis
- Medical bill – Medische rekening
- Medical insurance – Medische verzekering
- Pharmacy – Apotheek
- Prescription – Recept
- Stroke – Beroerte