Navigating the Dutch healthcare system can come with a few headaches.

For expats, we find many come to us with questions relating to which insurance to purchase, how to find a general practitioner (GP), and how to pick up prescriptions.

In the Netherlands, every person is legally obliged to take out standard health insurance to cover the cost of consulting a general practitioner (GP), hospital treatments, dental care, and prescription medication.

As you settle into the Netherlands, getting your health insurance in check should be one of your first to-do items.

Below we break down some of the more critical information you need to know in order to get proper healthcare insurance in the Netherlands.

How Dutch Healthcare Works

In the Netherlands, the government is responsible for the accessibility and quality of the healthcare but not in its management. Additionally, like the rest of Europe, aspects of the Dutch healthcare system is socialized. This means part of of your salary is withheld for tax purposes that contribute to the system.

In general, everyone living in the Netherlands that is 18 years old and over needs to legally have some type of health insurance coverage. When moving to the Netherlands you are given up to four months from arrival to get your health insurance coverage setup.

All insurance providers offer a universal standard insurance package that has been pre-approved by the government. Of course, because insurance providers are private health plans you can optimize and add more coverage or perks to the plan. In the Netherlands you have two types of health insurance:

  1. Compulsory basic insurance (basisverzekering)
  2. Optional additional insurance (aanvullende verzekering)

It’s important for all internationals to know that if you are not covered by Dutch health insurance after your first four months in the Netherlands, you risk being fined and billed retroactively for the months you were not insured.

Once you do have your health insurance you can then begin the process of finding your general practitioner (GP) which is your gateway to accessing specialized care, prescriptions, and other medical needs.

Standard Insurance (Basisverzekering)

The Dutch government decides on the coverage provided by the standard universal package which all insurers must offer.

Healthcare insurers are obliged to accept anyone who applies for the standard insurance package and must charge all policyholders the same premium, regardless of their age or state of health.

Accordingly, you onnly pay a fixed, nominal premium to your insurance company for the standard health insurance package. Moreover, those with low income may be eligible for healthcare benefit to help pay for health insurance. For 2024, the general cost of the basic standard coverage is about € 131,95 per month.

The standard healthcare plan (basisverzekering) should cover the following:

  • visits to GPs, obstetricians, and midwives

  • hospital treatment and stays

  • some medications and medical aids

  • dental care until the age of 18

  • nutritional/dietary care

  • mental health services

Supplemental Coverage (Aanvullende Verzekering)

Not all healthcare needs will be covered by the standard package.

This is why insurance providers allow you to take out additional insurance. This additional coverage can potentially cover things like physiotherapy or dental care.

Thus, this additional insurance, which comes with an additional monthly rate, is not required and is something you can purchase from any provider regardless of the provider you have your standard basic plan with.

Notably, insurance companies are not obliged to accept everyone who applies for additional insurance. An insurance company can refuse to accept you as a client or can ask you about your health before accepting you.

That being said, because additional coverage is a service offered by providers, this is where as a shopper you can pick and choose based on rates and packages.

Generally, the additional coverage packages will include some of the following:

  • dental care for adults over 18 including dentist check-ups, fillings, hygiene, cleaning and dental implants

  • emergency health care for travel abroad

  • alternative medical treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy

  • contraception

  • glasses and contact lenses

Dutch Healthcare Costs

You pay a fixed, nominal, premium to your insurance company for the standard health insurance package. As mentioned, for 2024 the monthly rate for the basic insurance coverage legally required (so your premie) is € 131,95.

Of course, depending on whether you take out additional coverage your monthly cost will vary.

Besides your monthly premium (premie) there is one more type of expense associated with your healthcare: out-of-pocket or eigen risico. You must first reach your -out-of-pocket total before your insurance covers 100% of the costs for some treatments and medications.

In 2024, your out-of-pocket costs or eigen risico is up to a maximum of € 385. Alternatively, if you have no medical treatments outside of the scope of the standard care then you’ll have no out-of-pocket costs.

Restitutue and Natura Policies

Additional costs can arise depending on where you get care and the contracts your insurance provider has with hospitals and other healthcare providers. Insurances usually have both a restitutie and a natura policy, which you decide on is up to you.

restitutie policy allows you to go any hospital or clinic you choose without worrying about coverage.

Under a natura policy, you need to go to a provider that your insurer has a contract with. Therefore, with a natura policy, you can go to any hospital but will need to pay part of the costs yourself if it is a non-contracted hospital.

Dutch Healthcare: Changing Providers

Every year you have the option to change your basic provider. If you are changing providers, you need to cancel your previous insurance before 1 January and take out new insurance before 1 February.

Health insurers offer a transfer service. They will cancel your old insurance for you if you take out a new policy with them before 31 December.

However, if you apply for a basic package with a new insurer, you can keep the additional package with your current insurer and vice versa.

Special conditions may apply to a ‘separate’ additional package. The premium may be higher or the insurer may apply a qualifying period. You will be insured during the qualifying period but certain costs will not be reimbursed. Your insurer can inform you of the conditions.

Skipping out on Dutch Healthcare

If for some reason you decide not to take out health insurance within your first four months of arrival to the Netherlands you risk hefty fines.

Once the government becomes aware that you are not insured you will receive a letter from the CAK. This is your first warning. CAK will allot you an additional three months to get insured. After these three months, the fines begin.

For 2024, the CAK fine is € 496.74. If you don’t have insurance within six months of the first fine, CAK will fine you again for the same amount.

Eventually, usually within nine months after getting your first letter from CAK, you will be randomly assigned an insurance provider by CAK. The monthly premium will be deducted from your salary.

Moreover, aside from the fines, any medical attention and needs will have to be paid in full at your own expense. Ultimately, the costs will total more than the basic premium you would have paid monthly for coverage.

Insurance Providers in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has around 60 different healthcare providers. Some of the top insurers for expats (with websites in English) are:

Achmea Zorg
Menzis
CZ
VGZ
Loonzorg
ONVZ Zorgverzekeraar
Zilveren kruis
Holland Zorg

As you begin shopping for your insurance provider, a good resource to get an overview of the available providers is the Zorgverzekering Informatie Centrum (translates to Health Insurance Information Center). 

Another comparison site which is available in English is: Zorgwijzer. 

Main Takeaways

As an expat, highly skilled migrant, and international student navigating the Dutch healthcare system can be time-consuming and frustrating.

Luckily, more insurance providers in the Netherlands are making their services and websites accessible to non-Dutch speakers. There are also tools (such as the one mentioned earlier) that allow you to compare costs and benefit packages.

The most important thing, is that you register for your healthcare within four months of arrival. Furthermore, keep in mind the kind of additional needs you may have related to health services.

At All About Expats we aim to make your transition to the Netherlands easier by providing relevant resources and information pertinent to newcomers. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn and check out or Expat Blog where we have more content related to Dutch healthcare, getting a GP, and more.