Healthcare in the Netherlands might work a little differently than in your country of origin. We’ve got you covered! Here’s everything you need to know about Dutch healthcare.

Health insurance in the Netherlands

Health insurance is an essential aspect of healthcare in the Netherlands. It is mandatory for all people living or working in the Netherlands for more than four months. The health insurance providers in the Netherlands belong to the private sector, meaning you can choose your insurer freely. However, that also entails that the packages and deals differ from insurer to insurer. Primary medical needs are covered in the basic insurance, which all providers need to cover. However, special needs like physiotherapy, dental care or glasses are usually covered in additional modules. To compare different health insurance providers in the Netherlands, use websites like ZorgkiezerIndepender or Zorgwijzer.

In our extended guide about health insurance in the Netherlands, you will find a list of insurance companies which provide an English website and much more information on Dutch health insurance.

Registration with a GP

You may need to see a doctor while living in the Netherlands. However, to be able to see a general practitioner, you must register with their medical office first. Registering with a doctor as soon as you settle in the Netherlands or at least before you get ill makes sense. Usually, they set up an intake appointment to discuss your medical history. To find a GP in your area, type in your city or postal code on and choose a suitable one. Some medical offices are no longer accepting new patients. If that is the case, you may have to go to a GP further away. 

Good to know: A GP visit is always covered by your Dutch health insurance and doesn’t count for your mandatory excess. If you need a medical specialist, you usually see your GP first. They then refer you to the appropriate specialist at a hospital or special clinic.

What happens if you need a specialist?

If the general practitioner can’t help you further, you may need to see a specialist. To see a specialist, you need a referral from your GP. Usually, after you visit your GP, you’ll receive a letter and need to make an appointment with the specialist.

Specialists often are located at the hospital, meaning you’ll also need to register there. This usually happens during your first visit. So make sure you’ll bring your identity papers. You must also provide your address, insurer, and general practitioner’s name.

Where do I collect my medicines?

In the Netherlands, you subscribe to one pharmacy, which from then on is responsible for handling all your medicines. Like this, they make sure your prescripted medications don’t conflict. Of course, you can change the pharmacy when you change the address. Another practical fact about healthcare in the Netherlands is that your GP or specialist usually sends the prescriptions directly to the pharmacy so that the medication is already in place when you get there. Alternatively, the doctor will give you the prescription, which you can redeem directly at your pharmacy.

There are two types of prescriptions: a one-time recipe and repeat recipes (herhaalrecept). You can pick up the medicine on the prescription once with a one-time recipe. With a repeat prescription, you can pick up the medication multiple times once you run out of the treatment, that is usually the case with birth control or other medicine you need to take over a more extended period.

Collect medicines at the weekend: Pharmacies usually stick to business hours. In an emergency, you can visit a service pharmacy to get your medicine outside regular opening hours. Usually, they are located in or next to a hospital or emergency unit. To find a service pharmacy in your neighbourhood, google ‘dienstapotheek‘ on Google Maps. Be aware that you pay a surcharge for collecting your medicine at the weekend.

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

The government regulates healthcare in the Netherlands, and all primary care is covered by health insurance. Therefore, usually, you don’t have to pay when collecting medicine at the pharmacy. Your health insurance settles that for you. If insurance does not cover your treatment, a personal contribution might be necessary. The pharmacy will inform you when that’s the case, and you must immediately pay when collecting the medicine. On, you can check your prescription in advance and see if and how much you must pay.

You may have to pay something afterwards because you have not reached the mandatory excess or your insurance package does not cover the treatment. But usually, this is made clear upfront. The insurance always covers GP visits, which are not subject to the mandatory excess.

What if I can’t pay for health insurance?

Health insurance is part of the healthcare in the Netherlands; everyone must take out health insurance. However, if your income is too low to pay the necessary fees comfortably, you can get a healthcare allowance (zorgtoeslag). The Dutch government gives you a healthcare benefit to keep health insurance affordable.

There are specific requirements you need to meet to get a healthcare allowance. Apart from reaching adulthood and having Dutch health insurance, your income must be below the income threshold of € 32.500 if you are single and €41.000 if you apply with your partner (numbers apply to 2023). You are also not allowed to possess too high (joint) assets, and you have Dutch nationality or legally reside in the Netherlands. Furthermore, you need a BSN and a DigiD to proceed with the application.

You can apply for a benefit online via the Mijn toeslagen section on the Dutch tax authorities’ website. 

Are you lost in translation? The Mijn toeslagen section and the registration process are only available in Dutch. If you haven’t found a loyal Dutchie to help you yet, you can get help from Social organisations and other authorities. Here you’ll find a list of options. It’s in Dutch, so just hit the Google translation button. 

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