About the Dutch health care system

About the Dutch healthcare system

For expats and internationals, the Dutch health care system might seem confusing. With this information, we strive to help people that are new to the health care system in The Netherlands.

The Dutch health care system is sectioned off into three categories:

  • Longterm care for chronic diseases
  • Basic and essential medical care, including GP visits, short-term hospital visits, E.R. visits and specialists
  • Supplementary care (such as dental care costs, physiotherapy, etc).

The first two categories, longterm care for chronic diseases and basic and essential medical care are covered under the mandatory Dutch Basic Health Insurance, whereas the third category can be covered by supplementary health insurance packages. The third category is not mandatory.

Dutch Basic Health Insurance / Basiszorg

The Dutch government mandates every long-term, tax paying resident of the Netherlands to apply for Basic Health Insurance, also called Basiszorg.

Do I need Dutch Basic Health Insurance (Basiszorg)? 

The Dutch Basic Health Insurance covers your visits to G.P.’s (‘huisartsen’), visits to medical specialists, prescription medication and medical devices.

Non-emergency care 

In the Dutch health care system, the General Practioner (huisarts in Dutch) is the gatekeeper to all other non-emergency treatments. Firstly, the G.P. can help to resolve routine health issues and perform regular gynecological and paediatric treatments. This doctor is also responsible for holding all your medical records, can prescribe medication. Additionally, he will assess whether you need help from a specialist or other health care provider such as hospital care, specialist care, physiotherapy and maternity care.  As general consultations are covered under the Dutch Basic Health insurance, you generally will not have to pay at the counter for these sessions  – the insurance company will receive the bills directly.  

How do I find a GP?   

If you are staying in The Netherlands for a longer period of time, it is advisable to be registered at a G.P. early. You can find a G.P. by entering ‘huisarts’ and your city on the website www.zorgkaartnederland.nl , via Google Maps or via your local Community Guide. 


If your G.P. determines you need specialized care, you often need to go to a hospital. In The Netherlands, there are several types of hospitals. 

  • Academic and Teaching hospitals

    Academic and Teaching hospitals are both connected to major Dutch educational institutions. Academic hospitals provide highly specialized medical care and work on medical research. Teaching hospitals also provide specialized medical care. In these hospitals, medical interns and nurses are trained. 

  • General hospitals

    General hospitals are able to provide general, less specialized care. These hospitals can also refer you to more specialized hospitals and specialists.

Hospital appointments

The first time you enter a hospital, you need to get registered at the front desk – here, you need to provide your personal details, insurance details and the name of your General Practitioner. With these details, the hospital will create a file for you and a hospital card. Bring this card with you every time you go to the hospital.  

Medication & Pharmacies

Prescription medication is only available at the Pharmacy (‘apotheek’ in Dutch). Pharmacies can be found across the country and there are several in every city – but it is advisable to register at a fixed pharmacy. Your G.P. will be able to supply them with a prescription directly, and they will have an overview of your prescription history. With this they can also determine if you are using conflicting medication. With medication covered under the Dutch Basic Health insurance, you generally will not have to pay at the counter for this medication – the insurance company will receive the bills directly.  

For non-perscription medication, you can visit your local drug store (‘drogist’).

How do I find a pharmacy in The Netherlands? 

You can enter your place of residence on the website http://www.apotheek.nl/vind-een-apotheek – or resort to Google Maps. 

Emergency Care

If you are in need of immediate medical assistance with an ambulance urgently, you call the emergency number 112. An ambulance will be dispatched, and you will be transported to the Emergency Room (or SEH, Spoedeisende Hulp in Dutch) of a hospital. 

For matters that are urgent but do not need hospital care, you can also call your General Practitioner. If your G.P. is not available, the voice message on his phone will list the number of a so-called Huisartsenpost, a G.P. post. This is a center which has an on-call G.P. during non-business hours. These centers can also be found by Googling ‘Huisartsenpost’ and the name of your town or city.