The Most Essential Form of Insurance
Like many things in the Netherlands, health insurance – depending on circumstance – is a legal obligation. All working people in the Netherlands are required to have health insurance. But there are different rules for those on a study visa. The healthcare system here can be quite confusing for people from other countries. It is best to do your research before you come here, so that you can be aware of your options and what is expected of you.
Share the Wealth, Share the Health(care)
The Dutch National Healthcare Institute (Zorginstituut Nederland) describes its healthcare system as being founded on the principle of social solidarity. By mandating every working adult to pay for their own premium, the overall cost of healthcare is shared between residents. Together, we help make sure the elderly, sick, pregnant and injured are taken care of by distributing the costs among all working people. You shouldn't be scared of getting ill in the Netherlands – you will be supported by the society around you.
For the record, if you do get hurt or fall ill without insurance here, an attending physician will provide any care they deem necessary for you regardless of whether they believe you can pay for it; this is even true for undocumented persons. Under special circumstances, you may receive payment assistance from the National Healthcare Institute.
If you are required to get Dutch insurance and need help deciding on a policy or company, you can check out this tool created by the Dutch Patient Federation (Patiëntenfederatie Nederland). This is an independent body created to protect the rights of patients. Make sure the healthcare provider you choose is accepted by clinics in your area. The Patient Federation's tool can also be used to find a GP, whether you have Dutch or international insurance.
An international student is legally barred from taking out Dutch health insurance. Instead, a non-working student must take out private health insurance, either from their home country, or from international insurance companies such as AON. If you are a citizen of the European Union, or from the European Economic Area, you may be eligible for the European Health Insurance Card. Generally, a student on non-Dutch insurance will have to pay the cost of healthcare upfront, and then apply for compensation from their insurance company after the fact.
Once you start working here – even as an intern or part-time worker – Dutch standard health insurance, or basisverzekering, becomes both a right as well as an obligation. It is worth noting that you are required to obtain basisverzekering within four months after the date that your working permit comes into effect. Children under the age of 18 don't need to pay for a premium, but they still need to be registered with your healthcare company. If you are not insured in time, you may receive a fine from the government. However, there are some exceptions. For example, if you want to register as a self-employed person (zelfstandige zonder personeel), you can contact the Social Insurance Bank (Sociale Verzekeringsbank) for an assessment of your situation. You may not be required to take out an insurance premium.
The basisverzekering package is regulated by the Dutch government, and each insurance company's basisverzekering will cover the same things. Further, all insurance companies are required by law to accept everyone who applies, and companies have to charge people the same rate regardless of age or health status. While basisverzekering covers things like doctor visits and prescription medication, it does not cover other healthcare services, such as dental care. You will have to pay more for those. For a better indication of costs and coverage, take a look at the standard package of companies like DSW (The page is in Dutch, but you can translate it to English if needed).
If you are required to have basisverzekering, make sure you sign up before you start working to avoid any large lump-sum payments. Dutch insurance companies can and will (with glee) charge you for the time you worked while un-insured. For example, if you start working in August, but wait until October to apply for health insurance for an employed person, you will be charged for three months all at once, to make up for time spent un-insured. By being proactive about your situation, you can save yourself the extra strain on your wallet. Once you obtain Dutch insurance, you can simply provide your policy number and insurance company to your healthcare practitioner, who will charge the company directly.
by Olivia Nelson