Are you an EU citizen? Will you be working during your studies? Which health insurance provider is best for your specific needs? These are the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself before you decide on your health insurance provider. But don’t worry, we will talk you through the Dutch healthcare system and Dutch health insurance so you can cycle peacefully, knowing the healthcare system has got your back (literally, they will fix your back if you hurt it).

Do you actually need student health insurance?

This is the ultimate question. If you are a full-time student in the Netherlands and are NOT working, you are not obligated to have Dutch health insurance. However, if you would like to benefit from the Dutch healthcare system, we recommend you to get one. Your insurance should be provided by your home country.

Check with your home country on whether or not they provide free health cover for the duration of your studies. You may have to take out health insurance in your home country with enough coverage to last while you are abroad. If you are an EU citizen, this may be done via a European Health Insurance Card. You should also make sure the status of your health insurance won’t change at any point during your studies. If it does, make sure you have a backup plan. For example, the NHS covers students from the UK right now, however, this may change after Brexit.

This all changes, however, if you take up a part-time job here in the Netherlands. Anyone that works in the Netherlands is required to have Dutch healthcare - by law! This means you are legally obliged to take out health insurance with a private company, whether you are in possession of a European healthcare card or not.

So if you’re here to just study? No Dutch health insurance. And if you have a part-time job or paid internship? You need Dutch health insurance.

The Dutch healthcare system

The system is divided into three categories.

  • Long-term care for chronic conditions, which is covered by compulsory state insurance.
  • Basic and essential medical care like ‘thuisarts’ (GP) visits short-term hospital stays, which is covered by private health insurance.
  • And finally, supplementary care like dental care, physiotherapy, etc. - this could also be covered by your health insurance depending on your policy.

Doctors and GPs are your first point of contact as they refer you to specialists if needed, so it is important to register with a thuisarts within your local area. Some universities will recommend thuisarts for students where the GPs communicate in English, so check out your university website for information.

Prescription medicines are only available from an ‘apotheek’ (pharmacy). Dental care is provided by ‘Tandarts’ (dentists) and is not covered with basic health insurance providers unless you take out a policy with a provider that covers this (or will contribute towards the total cost). If you’re prone to teeth-problems, we recommend you opt for this as self-funding your dental care can be extremely pricey in the Netherlands.

What Healthcare package/insurer shall I opt for?

This depends on what your healthcare needs are. If you think you’ll only need to be covered when things go wrong, then basic health insurance might be your best option as this will cover things like doctor visits, medical specialists, pharmaceuticals and more. This will cost you approximately €116 and the insurance is offered by a number of health insurance providers.

One thing to note is that basic health insurance has an excess fee. This means that you will need to fork out for any accumulated expenses under €385 a year but any annual accumulated expenses over €385 will be covered by the student health insurance. So if you end up paying hundreds on a broken arm and it sends you over the threshold, you might as well start getting all your blood tests done and any other work you need, as you can’t be charged more than that amount.

Remember that if you do decide to take out student health insurance in the Netherlands then you must do so within the first three months of acquiring your residence permit, so be on the ball and sort it out early or you could face a fine.

So what company do I choose?

Well, providers such as LoonZorg have no excess expenses. They also provide additional services like dental care. This option may be wise for the accident-prone because an unexpected cracked tooth may set you back a few hundred euros, more than the annual insurance cost. LoonZorg offers two different healthcare insurance packages for international students.

Another popular healthcare provider for internationals in the Netherlands is deNieuweDokter. The latter is a 'huisarts' with an innovative approach towards healthcare. The practice is deliberately small-scale with the aim of guaranteeing sufficient attention to every one of their patients. People often feel alienated from their healthcare provider, so De NieuweDokter ethos is to reduce the barriers between doctor and patient.

Ultimately, there are a lot of options out there. So try to do some investigating and figure out the best option for you.

Financial support

Being a student can be financially demanding - especially when Belgian beers are calling your name. For most students, health insurance can be a real burden. However, the Dutch government also make it easier for students that may not be able to afford to pay all of the costs of healthcare.

The state offers healthcare allowance (zorgtoeslag) to help cover your monthly premiums. To receive the allowance you must meet certain criteria so check before applying. Usually, whether you are able to access this or not will depend on your annual income. If you are entitled to this government money, you could receive just under 100 euros a month. You don’t have to pay this money back. In order to apply for the zorgtoeslag, you should also make sure you have a DUO government account as this is the system used when you apply for the stipend.

Understanding the healthcare system can feel confusing, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time.