Healthcare in The Netherlands

The Netherlands is recognized for having an excellent healthcare system. It is based on several key principles, such as access for all, solidarity and high-quality services.

This article explains what the Dutch healthcare system is and how it works. It also gives useful tips about finding an insurer, doctor, pharmacy and hospital.

What is the Dutch healthcare system?

The Dutch healthcare system comprises of four healthcare-related acts:

The Health Insurance Act

The Health Insurance Act (in Dutch: Zorgverzekeringswet) provides for short-term medical care, such as:

  • General practioner care
  • Hospital care
  • Medication
  • Mental healthcare

The Health Insurance Act accounts for the largest amount of the healthcare budget.

The Long-Term Care Act

The Long-Term Care Act (in Dutch: Wet langdurige zorg) provides for high-level care for vulnerable groups, such as:

  • Vulnerable elderly people
  • People with certain chronic illnesses
  • People with severe mental or physical disabilities

A special assessment center (called CIZ) determines whether a person is eligible for care under the Long-Term Care Act. Long-term care is covered through a state-controlled mandatory insurance.

The Social Support Act

The Social Support Act (in Dutch: Wet maatschappelijke ondersteuning, Wmo) has two clear goals:

  • Help people to live at their home independently for as long as possible
  • Help people to participate in society for as long as possible

The local municipality can be asked for support, upon which an assessment will follow.

The Youth Act

The Youth Act (in Dutch: Jeugdwet) is responsible for reducing the number of children in specialized care and for increasing preventive care and early intervention support for children. The Youth Act responsibilities lie with the local municipality.

How do I sign up for Dutch healthcare?

If you are currently working in The Netherlands you will be automatically insured for the Long-Term Care Act and eligible for support through the Social Support Act if needed.

Upon registering with the municipality (gemeente), you will receive a social security number (BSN) that you will need to register for the mandatory Dutch health insurance. Applying can be done easily online, using our comparison tool:

--> Sign up for Dutch health insurance

Sometimes the insurance company will ask you to provide proof of residency, your passport or a letter from your employer.

Healthcare allowance

If your income is relatively low, you may be entitled for a healthcare allowance from the government. This benefit is arranged through the Dutch Tax Authority (Belastingdienst).

Our experts will be able to help you with any questions you may have. Contact us on: +31 (0) 10 – 34 000 20. 

How does healthcare in The Netherlands work?

After you have applied for health insurance you can follow this stepwise-instruction to get access to medical care:

1. Register with a local doctor

The first step is to register with a local doctor/general practitioner (in Dutch: huisarts). This can be done over the phone or by making an appointment. Some GP-offices also give you the option to register with them online.

You can find a GP near your house using

2. Register with a pharmacy

In order to pick-up prescriptions you will also need to register with a pharmacy, preferably nearby. This can usually be done on the phone or through an e-mail. Find a pharmacy here

The first time you visit a pharmacy it is important to bring your insurance card and ID.

3. Going to your GP

When you have a non-urgent medical or mental issue the local family doctor (GP) is the first point of contact. You can call the GP-office, explain your issue and make an appointment. They will usually have a spot for you the same day or the next day, depending on your medical complaints.

Your GP is very well capable to provide you with a good consultation or simple medical treatment. If necessary the GP will prescribe medication, such as pain killers, antibiotics, antiviral drugs or anti-allergy pills.

Your doctor can also:

  • Issue a referral to a (mental) clinic, psychologist or healthcare provider
  • Prescribe a blood or urine test to further examination

Most doctors in the Netherlands are proficient in English.

4. Hospital care

For non-urgent hospital care you will need a referral from your general practitioner. For example, when you need to see a specialist or get an x-ray. Medical specialists work in hospitals or dedicated medical clinics. Most hospitals/clinics are operated privately. Check with your insurance company (zorgverzekeraar) if they are covered.

Depending on your medical issue, there will be a waiting period for hospital care. Your GP and insurance company can help you find a hospital with a lower waiting time.

5. Urgent medical care

For urgent medical care that is not life-threatening you can call your GP's office. In the phone menu you will get the option to choose urgent medical care (spoedgeval).

The GP's office is only available during working hours. Outside working hours you can contact an urgent care centre (in Dutch: huisartsenpost).

For urgent medical care, such as a dislocated shoulder, you can also directly go straight to a hospital's emergency room (ER) (in Dutch: spoedeisende hulp).

2 tips:

  • Use Google Maps to find a huisartsenpost or hospital nearby.
  • In case you go the huisartsenpost or ER directly it could be wise to let them know you are coming, whenever possible.

6. Emergency care

For medical emergencies you will need to call 112. This number is meant for possibly life-threatening situations, such as:

  • A heart attack/failure
  • If you believe immediate medical care is needed
  • A road accident
  • A crime

If you have a speech or hearing impairment, you can use the service number 0800 8112 to type a message to the emergency call center.

Good to know:

Emergency and urgent medical care are usually also covered for those with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

7. Other healthcare types

For other healthcare types you will usually not need a referral from your local doctor, such as:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Dietary advice

You won't need a referral either for healthcare that is covered only through your supplemental health insurance, such as:

  • Dental care
  • Alternative healing
  • Podotherapy
  • Orthodontics

You can directly contact your healthcare provider or dentist.

How much does Dutch healthcare cost?

Dutch Healthcare is funded in two ways:

Firstly, short-term care is financed through a state-regulated mandatory health insurance plan, which is funded through:

TypeCost per person
Income dependent tax5,43 - 6,68% of gross income
Health insurance premium€ 135 per month on average
Deductible excess (eigen risico)€ 385 minimum
Out-of-pocket paymentsOnly applicable for some healthcare types

Affordability for everyone is guaranteed through the income-related tax and an income-dependent healthcare allowance (in Dutch: zorgtoeslag).

Long-term care, social support and youth care are funded through income taxes and/or out-of-pocket contributions. Affordability for everyone is achieved because most taxes/contributions are income-related.