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.

There are a few 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 most 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 sometimes lack bedside manner, and are often reluctant to prescribe medication unless absolutely essential. The latter 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 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. 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 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.

EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access state healthcare here during a short-term visit. UK citizens can make use of their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the EHIC for UK citizens post-Brexit.

Medicines and pharmacies in the Netherlands

Pharmacies (apotheken) are plentiful in the Netherlands and stock both prescription and non-prescription medications. As mentioned, receiving an initial prescription for certain medication may take time, but once a prescription is issued, the medication is easily accessible from pharmacies.

Large cities usually have 24-hour pharmacies available alongside those operating during regular working hours only.

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.