The Netherlands is credited with having one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Expats will have access to top-notch facilities and highly qualified medical professionals.
However, there are key things to note regarding receiving medical care in the Netherlands, in particular, the requirement for health insurance.
Public and private healthcare in the Netherlands
The healthcare system in the Netherlands is one of the few in the world that blurs the distinction between private and public care. Most healthcare facilities are non-profit and highly regulated by the government. The government generally funds long-term health treatment through tax, while short-term treatment is covered by mandatory private insurance.
What makes the system unique is that Dutch medical schemes have to offer certain basic services for a monthly fee and aren't allowed to refuse anyone based on risk. Belonging to a scheme is compulsory for all residents, including expats with permanent residency. Private schemes are also partially funded by employers.
Healthcare facilities in the Netherlands
High standards and specialist treatments can be found at medical facilities in the Netherlands. All hospitals offer similar facilities and services, but some specialise in particular areas of treatment.
It’s important to note that the Dutch healthcare system is divided into different tiers, with GPs forming a large part of the first tier. It isn't usually possible to visit a specialist, on the second tier, without a doctor's referral.
Most doctors understand English, but expats often complain that local doctors lack sympathy and are reluctant to prescribe medication unless absolutely essential. This largely stems from the general non-interventionist approach adopted by most Dutch medical practitioners.
Expats should try to find a general practitioner (huisarts) as soon as possible after they arrive. They're often very busy and it can be difficult to find one who has space for more patients. After finding a doctor, expats will need to register with them.
Health insurance in the Netherlands
All residents and taxpayers in the Netherlands are required to have medical insurance from a private health insurance company. This must be organised within four months of arriving in the country.
Insurers are required to provide the same basic coverage for everyone. Health insurers are not allowed to deny coverage to any person who applies for a standard insurance package, and all policyholders must be charged the same premium, regardless of their age or state of health. However, children under the age of 18 are typically included in the insurance package of their parents or guardians.
Some medical services are not covered by the basic insurance plans, and additional health insurance is optional to cover such costs. We highly recommend that expats scrutinise these medical plans and decide if they require additional cover.
Medicines and pharmacies in the Netherlands
Pharmacies (apotheken) are plentiful in the Netherlands and stock both prescription and non-prescription medications. As previously mentioned, initially receiving a prescription for certain medication may take time, but with a prescription they are easily accessible from pharmacies.
Large cities usually have 24-hour pharmacies available alongside those operating during regular working hours only.
Health hazards in the Netherlands
While violent crime is uncommon, there are some health hazards and safety concerns to be aware of, and general precautions should be considered.
Women, especially, should take sensible precautions and be aware of the risk of their drinks being spiked. Moreover, there is a risk of pickpocketing in large cities and tourist areas, and on public transport, such as in Amsterdam.
There is a drowning risk in Amsterdam's canals related to celebrations involving alcohol and marijuana. Expats and partygoers should take care along these canals.
Expats who choose to drive a car must be aware of the rules of the road and follow road safety regulations, such as not using a mobile phone while driving.
Furthermore, expats must follow instructions of local and national authorities pertaining to health regulations and coronavirus measures.
Emergency services in the Netherlands
Several private ambulance services are contracted to the Dutch government and operate within a particular service area. Response times are good.
The emergency number for an ambulance in the Netherlands is 112.
►Having a Baby in the Netherlands is essential reading for anyone planning on starting a family in the country
"The healthcare is fantastic. It is against the law not to be insured if you live or work in the Netherlands and insurance companies cannot turn you down for pre-existing conditions, financial situation, etc. The actual medical aspect is different. Your general practitioner is the gateway." Keep reading this interview with Tiffany J for more on Dutch GPs, specialist doctors and medication.
"Although here too the Dutch quest for efficiency is driven to the max, I would rate the Dutch healthcare system as average, descending from good." Read expat Edward's rating of the healthcare system in the Netherlands.
Are you an expat living in The Netherlands?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to The Netherlands. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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