Health Insurance

Dutch healthcare system

Dutch people are generally healthy, but you still need a healthcare system 😉.

The Dutch healthcare system is supposed to be top ranked in Europe. Basic Health Insurance is mandatory if you are living or working in the Netherlands. This covers your basic needs like doctor visits and hospital visits. This could be different from the way things work in your home country.

Registering with a General Practitioner

If you are new to the Netherlands or recently moved to a new home, this is one of the first tasks you need to do – register with a General Practitioner (huisarts) in your area of residence. You can search this website for huisarts in your area. In the Netherlands, a huisarts is your first point of contact for any health issues. If you have to reach out to a specialist, your huisarts can refer you to one of them. So, do not forget to do this very important step!

Health Insurance

Basic Health Insurance (Basisverzekering) is mandatory if you are living or working in the Netherlands. Children up to 18 years are covered under the parents policy. Health insurers are obliged to accept everyone irrespective of their age, pre-existing health conditions, gender etc. The Basic health insurance covers your everyday needs like huisarts visits, hospital stay, medicines etc. If you are healthy and do not expect to go to the doctor very often, then this is sufficient.

However, everything is not covered. This is where supplementary insurance (aanvullende zorgverzekering) comes into play. Examples are dental care for adults, physiotherapy etc. Insurers are not obliged to accept everyone; they can charge you extra based on your age or your pre-existing health condition.

Types of Basisverzekering

  • Naturapolis: This is the type where the insurer concludes a contract with most healthcare providers. However, the insurer may not conclude a contract with ALL healthcare providers. This is where insurers differ in terms of what they offer. If you visit a healthcare provider who is not contracted, you may have to pay part of the costs yourself.
  • Restitutiepolis: You have the freedom to choose any healthcare provider of your liking and you will get fully reimbursed for your costs by the insurer. The premiums for these policies are more expensive than the Naturapolis (extra freedom of choice you see…..)
  • Combinatiepolis: This is a combination policy which claims to combine the benefits of the Naturapolis and the Restitutiepolis. But in my experience, I have not seen this truly happen because what the insurers can offer in this can vary widely. Most insurers have those annoying star marks* on these policies with respect to reimbursement for non-contracted healthcare providers. Do compare every detail before you decide to choose one. This is also usually more expensive than the Naturapolis.
  • Budgetpolis: Just like airlines, health insurers also provide a budget alternative. This is the low-cost no-frills variant of the Naturapolis. You have a limited choice of healthcare providers and just like the Naturapolis, you may have to pay part of the costs yourself if you visit a non-contracted healthcare provider.

*conditions which are hard to find, read and understand (unike this one 😊)

Costs

You pay a premium (premie) for your insurance. This is usually monthly. If you choose to pay annually, many insurers offer a discount (upto 2%).

Own risk (eigen risico) is the deductible for your insurance. This is the healthcare cost you must pay yourself. The insurer pays for the costs only after this. For the Basic insurance, the government decides the amount every year. For 2021, it is 385 Euro. Here is an opportunity for another discount 😊 -> if you feel healthy and don’t expect to incur a lot of healthcare expenses, you can opt for a Voluntary deductible (vrijwillig eigen risico). This will increase your deductible by a certain amount and in return you get a discount on your premium.

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How to choose an insurance?

Firstly, think about what health related expenses you anticipate? You cannot obviously expect emergencies to happen, but you may have ‘known expenses’ – think of these. An example is a dental treatment which has been long pending – you may need aanvullende zorgverzekering for this.

Do you want complete freedom of choice with respect to healthcare providers and don’t mind a higher premium? Then go for a Restitutiepolis.

Would you rather pay a lower premium? Then think about a hospital/clinic/any other healthcare provider you are likely to visit. This is most likely in your neighborhood. Then choose a Naturapolis. Check the insurers website to see if they have a contract with this health care provider.

Ask yourself this – “Do you expect to have very less healthcare expenses?”. If the answer is yes, you should probably go for a Budgetpolis because these are the cheapest and you don’t mind their limited choice of healthcare providers. You may also opt for a vrijwillig eigen risico which will give you a discount on your premium.

You can compare different insurances on websites like independer and consumentenbond.

When can you switch?

You choose your health insurance for an entire calendar year. Every year between mid-November to end of December, all insurers make their premiums known for the following calendar year. This is the time for you to switch if you wish to.

Here’s wishing you a healthy life and hope you will never need to use your insurance 😊

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Free learning resources for Dutch

You might say there is no such thing as a free lunch, but I say there are several free ways to learn Dutch for purpose of inburgering exams. Few of them are described here.

  • Duolingo: This is a great resource for absolute beginners. There is a web version and an app for Android/IOS. Duolingo doesn’t teach you in a traditional way – meaning, you don’t start with alphabet and the sounds, but with short sentences. Even if you do not know the alphabet yet, this is still a nice way to begin. Setup a daily goal and spend 10 to 15 min every day.
  • Your local library: In many cities across the Netherlands, your local library may have some classes usually organized by volunteers to encourage expats to start learning. This is also a great way to meet new people. Just walk-in to your library and ask them.
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  • Check with your gemeente (town hall): Usually local town/city administrations have some budget to arrange classes through language institutes in your area. Just call your gemeente and find out if there are any classes and the process to enroll for them. These classes are usually arranged through good institutes, so the quality will be good – that also means there may be a waiting list before you are accepted.
  • Bart de Pau YouTube videos: Bart de Pau is a popular Dutch tutor. You can find his YouTube channel here. A special mention for his alphabet and pronunciation videos – I love them.
  • Dutch Newspapers: Now, this way might not seem interesting but let’s try and make it a bit more fun – start with just reading the advertisements and nothing else. If not anything, you atleast get to know if there is a sale going on somewhere in your neighborhood 😊. If you are an absolute beginner, this might not be the best way. But after a few weeks of Duolingo and Bart de Pau videos, you should be able to understand a few words here and there. The vocabulary used in newspapers is usually repetitive – meaning, if you start reading regularly enough, you will pick up many words automatically. There are free newspapers at train stations. You may also read news on Dutch websites if you promise not to use the ‘translate’ feature of Google Chrome 😊
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  • News on NPO: The “NOS Journaal” news on NPO is supposed to be the best Dutch spoken. There are usually free of local dialects, use simple words for easy understanding, have a clear pronunciation. This is a great way to pick up your listening skills. Even if you don’t understand everything that is being spoken, just listening to it continuously helps you register the sounds of the language (like a child imitating an adult even when the child does not understand what it means). Imitation is one of the best forms to learn a language. A tip: If you watch the news broadcast of the previous day in the NPO app on your smart device, you have an option to turn on subtitles (in Dutch, but still……). Then you can relate the pronunciation of the word to the spelling of the word.
  • Books: There are several books like ‘Kijk op Nederland’, ‘Welkom in Nederland’, ‘Nederlands in gang’ for preparation of Writing and KNM exams. If you have a membership at your local library, you should be able to borrow them for free!
  • Letters you receive at home: From the day you arrived in the Netherlands, you would have received letters in Dutch related to everything. In the beginning, you would obviously translate every single word. But slowly, you will start picking up words (one of the first words I learnt was ‘betalen’ = “to pay” because almost every other letter asked me to pay something 😊). Try and figure out the meaning of the sentence using this word and from the context – this will help you learn new words faster!

Then, there are several websites specifically aimed at practice for the inburgering exams. I have listed few of them here:

Official practice exams from DUO:

For all exams:

For KNM/KNS:

For Reading:

For Speaking:

For Writing:

Happy learning! Hope you find them useful!

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