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Social system

Health Insurance

´I wish I could see a doctor…´This is not the phrase you would like to say any time, particularly not when you’re living in a foreign country. Nothing is more worrying than to lack the necessary healthcare. Since January 2006 the health care system in the Netherlands underwent a major change. The two-tier system of public and private insurance no longer exists, and has been replaced by a basic insurance scheme for everyone, called the AWBZ, Algemene Wet Bijzondere Ziektekosten, or General Exception Medical Expenses Act. It’s important to understand the system and make sure that you get the necessary health cover now, rather than putting it off until the moment that you need it.

Insurance: for whom?
This AWBZ insurance is also available for foreign residents living in the Netherlands with a residence permit, and people who are working in this country without a residence permit. If you are just living temporarily in the Netherlands as a student, or not working, you’re except from this scheme.  Instead you would be covered by either an international insurance, for example an EU Health Insurance, or insurance/ healthcare from your country of residence.  Check for more details You will usually be considered a temporary resident if you’re staying less than three years.

Insurance: for what?
The basic health insurance contains a minimum coverage for medical assistance. This means that everyone pays the same premium with the same health insurance agency. For most agencies, this basic insurance covers a standard package of essential health care, prenatal care, hospital stay, rehabilitation, some dental care, etc. It is recommendable to take out supplementary insurance to cover psychological help, glasses and contact lenses, or more dental care, if it is needed. It is more expensive for the agencies to cover people who need more extensive medical care, however they are not allowed to refuse anyone. If you don’t require special care, the government considers this as ´own responsibility´,  it will be sufficient to opt for a basic insurance plus supplementary insurance for dental care.

Insurance: how to get it
Firstly, you’ll need a ´sofinummer´ (social security number) to apply for insurance.  To get a sofinummer go to the town hall of the Dutch ´gemeente´, or find all the information on, and on

Finding a good insurance provider is difficult, since there are about 40 health insurance agencies in the Netherlands. To select which fits best according to your needs, you could ask your employer, university or other agency where you are in contact with. Some have special agreements with health insurance agencies. If you want to look up information on the internet, check (only in Dutch). English/ details of some of the biggest

Insurance: for what price?
Since the liberalization of health insurance, a competitive market has resulted where agencies fight for customers. This elicits three important consequences; first, the companies are lowering their prices for health insurance in order to attract more customers. Secondly, small agencies disappear and others merge. Thirdly, the government isn’t so involved.  However, due to this competition the premiums are temporarily low, but will eventually not cover the costs. Consequently, the premiums will rise from around €1100 a year to €1500.

As well as the annual premium cost, you’re also required to pay a tax that goes towards insurance to the government via your pension or social security. The employer or social security agency will deduct an income tax of 6,5% with a maximum of €1,990 a year and pays this to the ´Belastingdienst´(national tax administration).  The amount of this tax depends on your income; the higher your income, the higher the tax. If, according to the Belastingdienst, you’d paid too much or too less income tax, the tax administration will automatically send you a reimbursement (with a maximum of €1,347, for an annual income between €955 and €30,015).

The introduction of this new health care system has meant that for those on a low income it may be too expensive. To help these people, the government has established a care grant (zorgtoeslag). Depending on the income (not higher than €26,071) and family situation (total income with partner not higher than €41,880), you may be qualified to receive a care grant up to an annual maximum of €432 if you are single, or €1,223 if you have a partner.  You can calculate if you qualify for a care grant at

Another compensation for health insurance is the no claim bonus. This is a refund of €255 a year when you don’t use any medical care, apart from visits to your doctor or maternal care.

In the Netherlands it is normal to arrange everything through the internet. Therefore, to find more information about the tax agency, check

Although this information has been carefully researched, it is intended only as a guideline to understanding the health system. You are strongly advised to do your own research and to check all details due to the many changes that insurances in the Netherlands are undergoing.

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