Hallo! Thinking of moving to the Netherlands for a new adventure? Good choice. If you’re not cycling around its famously flat landscapes, you’ll be making your way through its list of national beers.

But before you head for the airport, it’s a good idea to check out which healthcare options are available to expats – and we’ve got everything you need to know below.

If you’re already up to date with the Netherlands' healthcare system, you’ll know that the next step is to invest in an insurance plan that suits your needs – and we recommend Cigna.

Helping more than 95 million customers all over the world, Cigna has the experience and expertise to get you just the right cover.

Start building a customized plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.

A sunset behind Dutch windmill

One of the 1,000 traditional Dutch windmills standing peacefully in front of a hazy orange sunset

Dutch healthcare: key statistics

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    Average life expectancy
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How does the Netherlands’ healthcare system work?

The Netherlands offers universal healthcare, and requires all residents to purchase health insurance to cover the costs.

The government offers mandatory insurance for everyone in the country, which is managed by private insurance companies. It’s pretty different from the UK’s NHS, but it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

All primary care and long-term care services are offered at a fixed price, so you’ll know how much things will cost you from the get-go. Plus, it’s illegal for private companies to refuse coverage for anyone based on their financial or health situation.

Adults choose a policy on an individual basis – there’s no family coverage – while children under 18 are automatically covered by the State for free. And, if you’re not happy with your insurer, you’ll have the option to change to another one at yearly intervals.

The government determines what’s covered in the basic State insurance plan, which health insurers are legally required to provide. This plan includes:

Primary care provided by general practitioners (GPs)

  • Speciality care
  • Hospital care
  • Maternal care
  • Dental care up to age 18
  • Prescription drugs
  • Physiotherapy up to age 18
  • Home nursing care
  • A limited number of health promotion programmes
  • Basic ambulatory (i.e. medical care provided on an outpatient basis) mental health care for mild-to-moderate mental disorders
  • Specialised outpatient and inpatient mental care for complicated and severe mental disorders

Outpatient mental health care is generally covered as part of the basic statutory benefits package, whereas inpatient mental health care is covered as part of ‘Long-Term Care’.

This social insurance scheme is an optional support system, aimed at long-term care and otherwise uninsurable medical risks. To fund long-term care insurance, all taxpayers contribute 9.65% of their taxable income, up to €33,791 (£29,179).

To access healthcare in the Netherlands, residents need to:

  • register with the local council to get a citizen service number (BSN)
  • choose and register for health insurance with the provider of your choice
  • register with a local doctor

Is healthcare free in the Netherlands?

While healthcare in the Netherlands is universal, all residents – and any non-residents who pay Dutch income tax – must purchase statutory health insurance from private insurers.

The mandatory deductible cost (which is subtracted from your earnings) comes to €385 (£332) per year, and goes towards the statutory health insurance system. If you would like a lower monthly premium, you can also pay a voluntary deductible (excess) of €500 (£431) per year.

On top of this, adults might have to contribute to copayments (a fixed amount for a covered service), or make direct payments for some medications, physiotherapy, medical transportation, and medical equipment.

The government offers subsidies to help cover insurance premiums for low-income people. As of 2019, if you have an annual income under €29,500 (£25,478), or you’re part of a household with an income under €38,000 (£32,819), you’ll be eligible for lower premiums.

More than 5 million people (approximately 30% of the Netherlands’ population) receive these lower premiums.

Quality of healthcare in the Netherlands

The standard of healthcare in the Netherlands is pretty impressive. In fact, The Lancet rates it 90 out of a total 100 points in its effective coverage index – to compare, the UK scored 88.

Typically, there are around 2,200 patients per full-time GP, compared to the UK’s average of 2,087. Although registration with a GP is not mandatory in the Netherlands, the Commonwealth states that over 95% of citizens are registered with one.

Since all 71 of the Netherland’s hospitals – including eight university medical centres – are privatised, the standard of care and equipment is very high.

This high quality of care has led to a steady decline in mortality rates under the age of 75 – falling by roughly 30% between 2000 and 2013.

And, compared to the UK, the waiting times in the Netherlands aren’t too bad. In September 2020, the average waiting time for general surgery was just under two weeks. In the UK, however, before coronavirus, one in six patients were waiting more than 18 weeks for routine treatment.

Despite this high standard of care, there is quite a large discrepancy in terms of socioeconomic health in the Netherlands, with up to seven years’ difference in life expectancy between the highest and lowest socioeconomic groups.

Healthcare in the Netherlands for foreigners 

Expats either living or working in the Netherlands will need to take out insurance to cover the costs of healthcare. Some foreigners, however, might not be eligible for State insurance.

Whether you are eligible for Dutch health insurance depends on your personal situation.

If you are from the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA)

You will be eligible for Dutch health insurance if you:

  • have a job and/or pay income tax in the Netherlands
  • are aged 30 years or older
  • are staying in the Netherlands longer than 90 days

If you are not from the EU/EEA

You will be eligible for health insurance if you have a permanent Dutch residence permit. You won’t be qualified for Dutch health insurance if you are:

  • Studying in the Netherlands
  • Working for an employer outside the Netherlands
  • Paying income tax in another country
  • Waiting for a permanent residence permit

To register for the healthcare system in the Netherlands, expats need to get a Citizen Service Number (burgerservicenummer, or BSN), which you can apply for at your local municipal office.

Once you’ve got your BSN, you’re all set to register for health insurance – just make sure you have the following on hand:

  • Your passport or ID
  • Proof of address, such as a recent Dutch utility bill
  • Your BSN
  • Letter from your employer confirming employment (if you are working in the Netherlands)

Once you’ve signed up for health insurance, you should receive a health insurance card, which you will need to present when you use any of the country's healthcare services.

There are lots of great options for medical insurance out there, but we recommend Cigna, which provides both basic and additional policies. You can build a customized plan with a free quote, so you’ll know how much everything will cost, and have access to a range of benefits.

Do I need health insurance in the Netherlands?

Yes – to access the Netherlands’ universal healthcare, all citizens are required to have health insurance. The insurance company and the level of coverage you go for, however, is completely up to you.

In addition to mandatory coverage, 84% of the Dutch population purchases additional insurance (aanvullende verzekering). This provides access to a range of services not covered by statutory insurance, such as dental care, alternative medicine, physiotherapy, eyeglasses and lenses, and contraceptives.

Unlike state insurance plans, premiums for voluntary insurance are not regulated – meaning insurers are allowed to screen applicants for risk factors.

People with additional coverage generally don’t receive faster access to any type of care, but they will be able to avoid paying the following out-of-pocket fees:

Healthcare itemAverage cost in the Netherlands
One-night hospital stay€146
Emergency room visit€256
Doctor’s visit outside of normal office hours€92
Laser eye surgery€3,000
Dental check-up €20
Dental cleaning 45 minutes€108
30-minute physiotherapists session€40-75
Houses near Amsterdam canal

Architectural gems ‘The Dancing Houses' reflect on Damrak Canal in Amsterdam

Benefits of private medical cover in the Netherlands

For many, the State health insurance in the Netherlands will be enough to cover them comfortably. If you have any ongoing health issues, however, then a private or additional plan might be more suitable for your needs.

Private medical cover in the Netherlands can offer:

  • On-demand access to a network of private hospitals
  • Access to private facilities, such as private rooms during hospital stays
  • Cover for certain things State insurance doesn’t include, such as dental care or physiotherapy

How much does health insurance cost in the Netherlands?

The Commonwealth suggests that the mandatory deductible cost for State insurance is €385 (£332) each year.

If you’re after an additional insurance plan, however, you’ll have to pay a bit more. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to give an estimate of private health insurance costs, since these can vary depending on the insurance company and the type of coverage you go for.

Other factors that can change the price of insurance include:

  • Age (the older you are, the more you'll pay)
  • Area of cover (i.e. are other areas required in the coverage, in addition to the Netherlands?)
  • Any pre-existing conditions

If you’re employed during your move to the Netherlands, your employer will pay a small percentage towards medical coverage. Plus, children under the age of 18 won’t have to pay for health insurance.

If private medical insurance sounds right for you, you can get a better idea of how much it’ll cost by building a customised plan with Cigna. Once you’ve answered a few short questions, you’ll be provided with a free quote to make sure you and your family are fully protected.

Advice for expats moving to the Netherlands

Now that you have a better idea of how to stay in tip-top shape after your move to the Netherlands, it’s on to the fun stuff.

Learn more about the Dutch way of life by visiting our pages below: