The healthcare system in the Netherlands might work a little different than in your country of origin. No worries, we’ve got you covered! Here’s our complete guide to healthcare in the Netherlands.

Healthcare and health insurance in the Netherlands

The first step in healthcare in the Netherlands is to take out Dutch health insurance. All regular healthcare is covered by mandatory private health insurance. Extra care is usually covered by additional modules of your health insurance.

What do non-Dutchies need to consider when taking out health insurance?

  • Take out Dutch health insurance within four months after arrival in the Netherlands.
  • You need a BSN.
  • Exception for international students.

Dutch health insurance is an essential part of healthcare in the Netherlands, and health insurance is mandatory for all people working or living in the Netherlands for more than four months. An EU health insurance card or private health insurance from your country of origin won’t be enough. An exception is international students who don’t work in the Netherlands. 

Be aware that you need to be registered in the Netherlands and possess a BSN to get Dutch health insurance. 

You are obliged to take out Dutch health insurance within four months after your residence permit came into force. Suppose you are an EU, EEA citizen or from Switzerland. In that case, you need to take out health insurance within four months after your registration at the municipality.

Officially, your Dutch health insurance policy must be effective from the date of your registration or rather from the time your residence permit came into force. Meaning you’d eventually have to retroactively pay your health insurance’s monthly fee if you’re taking out health insurance later. However, in our experience, the government does not track these cases. You’re usually fine if the activation date is the date you’re taking out the insurance.

What happens if I do not take out health insurance (on time)?

  • After receiving a letter from the CAK, you have three months to take out health insurance.
  • If you do not comply with the request(s), you will be fined, and payments might be withheld from your salary. 

Health insurance is an essential and mandatory part of healthcare in the Netherlands. Therefore, penalties can be inflicted if you don’t take out health insurance. If you didn’t take out Dutch health insurance within four months, you would receive a letter from the CAK (Centraal Administratie Kantoor). In the letter, you will be asked to take out Dutch health insurance within three months. If you don’t do so, you’ll receive a fine and another extension of three months. After this period you’ll receive another penalty, and the CAK will register you with an insurer on your behalf and withhold the monthly fee for the insurance from your salary.

How do I take out health insurance?

  • Check ZorgkiezerIndepender or Zorgwijzer to compare different health insurances.
  • Find a list below with Dutch health insurance companies which provide an English website.

In the Netherlands, you decide on your health insurance company yourself, and you will be invoiced directly. Health insurances are part of the private sector, meaning that your monthly fee depends on which Dutch health insurance company and which additional modules you choose. The coverage for the basic needs is the same for every insurer. The terms for special healthcare needs, however, might differ from insurer to insurer. Ensure that you define your needs before you start comparing different Dutch health insurances. Read on to find out what is covered by basic and additional health insurance modules

If you have never had Dutch health insurance before, it’s easiest to check one of the multiple comparison websites available. Check ZorgkiezerIndepender or Zorgwijzer to find your perfect match.

If you’re still lost in Dutch, it can be extra complicated as most Dutch health insurance companies don’t provide an English website. Dutch health insurance companies who do are:


Which healthcare services are covered by Dutch health insurance?

  • Basic insurance (basisverzekering) covers the same basic healthcare needs for everyone. 
  • An appointment at the GP is always covered, regardless of the mandatory excess.
  • Take out extra modules for special healthcare needs.

Every year, the Dutch government defines which services the basic insurance (basisverzekering) covers. Therefore, they are the same for all insurances. Amongst others, the standard package covers visits at the GP – which are also excluded from the mandatory excess (eigen risico) – some medications, medical aids and mental health services. 

However, not all healthcare services are covered by the basic insurance. If you have special healthcare needs like physiotherapy, dental care or glasses, you can choose additional modules to cover the extra costs. The costs of the additional modules and what services they include differ from insurer to insurer. 

Check ZorgkiezerIndepender or Zorgwijzer to compare different health insurance companies. 

Why is health insurance a mandatory part of healthcare in the Netherlands?

  • Mandatory health insurance makes sure (unexpected) health costs are covered.

Health is a very unpredictable good that can change quite quickly. As health costs usually exceed the funds of an average earner, in the Netherlands, health insurance is mandatory to cover (unexpected) health costs. With compulsory health insurance, the Dutch government furthermore ensures everyone in the Netherlands has access to and is entitled to primary healthcare needs. Every year, the Dutch government defines these primary healthcare needs, and all insurance companies are forced to cover them in their basic health insurance (basisverzekering). Dutch health insurance companies are not allowed to refuse admittance to basic insurance. People who are not able to pay for basic insurance are entitled to healthcare allowance.

Read more about health insurance in the Netherlands on the website of the Dutch government.

What does healthcare in the Netherlands cost?

How high is the mandatory excess (eigen risico)?

  • In 2021 the mandatory excess is €385.
  • Lower your monthly fee with an increased mandatory excess.

Next to the health insurance company’s monthly fee, you should be aware of the mandatory excess (eigen risico). The compulsory excess is the yearly contribution you participate yourself to your healthcare expenses. The minimum amount is determined by the Dutch government and changes slightly every year. In 2021 the excess is € 385, the same as in 2020. 

Suppose you are a healthy person and don’t see a doctor frequently. In that case, you might want to increase the mandatory excess. This usually lowers your monthly fee. However, if you do so, you’d need to pay a higher amount if unexpected healthcare costs arise. You can voluntarily increase the mandatory excess by a maximum of € 500 to a total of € 885. If you increase your mandatory risk, make sure you’ll have enough savings to cover unexpected healthcare costs.

Tip: The insurer FBTO allows you to spread the payments of your mandatory excess. That means that you pay around 40 Euros every month for your mandatory excess. If you have not used up your mandatory excess, you will of course get the money back. However, spreading the payment could be interesting to those who are likely to use up their mandatory excess as you don’t have to pay big amounts at once.

Do I have to financially contribute to my medicines?

Medicines prescribed by your doctor are usually covered by your basic health insurance after deduction of the mandatory access. However, there are some medicines – usually, if a cheaper alternative exists – which require a personal contribution. On you can check: 

  • whether your medication is included in the basic health insurance package;
  • which costs count for your mandatory excess;
  • what your personal contribution may be;  
  • whether there is a cheaper alternative that is fully reimbursed.

The own contribution never exceeds a maximum of € 250 per year.

Do I have to pay when I visit a doctor or collect my medicine?

  • Usually you don’t need to settle the bill after seeing a doctor.
  • The same goes for medicine if your health insurance covers it.

If you have Dutch health insurance, you don’t need to settle the bill directly after visiting the doctor. The doctor’s office will invoice your insurance, which will consider your mandatory excess and if necessary, send you an invoice.

The same goes for your medicine. If your prescription is covered by your insurance, you don’t have to pay anything when collecting it. However, if your medication requires a personal contribution, you usually have to pay when ordering it at your pharmacy.

What if I can’t pay for health insurance?

  • If you meet certain criteria, you might be entitled to healthcare allowance.

If your income is low, you might be entitled to receive healthcare allowance (zorgtoeslag). To receive healthcare allowance, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • You are 18 or older;
  • You have Dutch health insurance;
  • Your income is below the (joint) income threshold of € 31.138 if you are single and € 39.979 if you apply together with your partner;
  • You have Dutch nationality or reside in the Netherlands legally;
  • Your (joint) assets are not too high.

Furthermore, you need a BSN and a DigiD to apply for healthcare allowance from the Dutch government. You can apply for a benefit online via the Mijn toeslagen section on the Dutch tax authorities’ website. Be aware that the Mijn toeslagen section is only available in Dutch.

Other things you need to know about healthcare in the Netherlands

Register with a GP after arrival in the Netherlands

To be able to use the services of a general practitioner, you have to register first. Therefore, it is wise to register with a doctor as soon as you start settling in the Netherlands or at least before you actually get ill. On you can type in your city or postal code and see all the GPs in your area. Usually, you set up an intake appointment to talk through your medical history.

A GP visit is always covered by your Dutch health insurance and doesn’t count for your excess (eigen risico). If you need to see a specialist, you usually see your GP first. He or she then refers you to the appropriate specialist.

Specialists are usually located in a hospital

If you need to see a specialist, you most likely see him or her in a Dutch hospital. At your first visit to the hospital, you need to register with your address, insurer, and general practitioner’s name. Afterwards, you receive a patient “passport”, which you need to bring for all subsequent hospital visits.

Where do I collect my medicines?

In the Netherlands, you subscribe to one pharmacy and collect all your medicine there. The advantage of this is that your pharmacy knows all your health data and makes sure your prescripted medications don’t conflict.

Often the prescribing doctor sends the prescriptions directly to the pharmacy so that the medication is already in place when you go to the pharmacy. Alternatively, the doctor will give you the prescription, which you can then redeem at the pharmacy.

There are two different types of prescriptions: a one-time recipe and repeat recipes (herhaalrecept). With a one-time recipe, you can pick up the medicine that is on the prescription once. With a repeat prescription, you can pick up the medication multiple times once you run out of the treatment.