Healthcare in the Netherlands is very different from what you may be used to in your home country. We understand that getting to understand this different healthcare system can be challenging. Therefore, below you will find an explanation of how it works in the Netherlands.

How does it work?

In the Netherlands, the first and most important contact is always the general practitioner (GP). The GP decides on a referral to a specialist in the hospital. It is not possible to make an appointment or go to the hospital yourself, which may be common in your own country.

To go to GP , you must tell the assistant on the phone the reason for your visit. The assistant will ask some questions about your symptoms. Then the assistant will decide whether you can stop by for an appointment at the GP or get advice over the phone.

There is a GP office outside opening hours and on weekends. If you have a serious, urgent medical issue that can't wait until opening hours, you should call this "GP station. They will decide if you can come or if you have to wait. They will refer you to the hospital if necessary. Going to the hospital without a referral from a GP is not possible in the Netherlands.

Of course, in life-threatening emergencies, there are ambulances you can call. The person on the phone will ask you questions and decide if an ambulance is needed or if you should go to GP/huisartsenpost. However, if a situation is not life-threatening, you should always go to the GP or doctor's office first.


In the Netherlands, general practitioners do not often prescribe antibiotics; they carefully assess exactly what you need. In the Netherlands, antibiotics are available only on prescription. You can't buy them over the counter as you might be used to in your home country.

By using antibiotics too often, more and more bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, making the antibiotics ineffective. Moreover, antibiotics only work against certain bacteria, not viruses. This is why GP does not prescribe them often. And for these reasons, taking antibiotics from home with you is not recommended.

Flexible Human Services
Flexible Human Services offers you help in making appointments with the GP and with specialists in the hospital (only possible if you have been referred by the GP ). However, they must also take into account the rules of the Dutch healthcare system. It is always the decision of the GP or his/her assistant when they have time for you. Please note that there may be a long wait on the phone and also before an appointment is possible. 

In case of an emergency
In case of a life-threatening emergency, call 112. Flexible Human Services also has an out-of-hours emergency phone number; someone is available 24/7 for emergencies. They can help you with translation and with making an appointment with the doctor's office (in case of a non-life-threatening emergency).

What does health care cost in the Netherlands?

Health Insurance

Everyone in the Netherlands is required to have basic insurance. All basic insurances in the Netherlands cover the same medical expenses. The Dutch government determines which costs are covered in this basic insurance.

With basic insurance, you are covered for many medical expenses. Do you need to go to GP? Or do you need to go (by ambulance) to the hospital for emergency care? Do you need medication? With the health insurance* you are insured for this. Dental care and physiotherapy are not included in the basic insurance and you have to pay for them yourself.

*Sometimes medications require you to pay a eigen bijdrage . See the explanation of 'eigen bijdrage' below

Flexible Human Services
Flexible Human Services has made a deal with health insurer ZEM and can offer you the most beneficial basic insurance in the Netherlands!
More information about health insurance? See

Deductible excess (eigen risico) and personal contribution (eigen bijdrage)

These two things may sound like the same thing in the Dutch language, but they are 2 different things when it comes to health insurance and payment. Below we explain the difference.

Deductible Excess (Eigen Risico)
A health insurance company reimburses many medical expenses, but in certain situations you must pay part of the cost yourself. This part is called the eigen risico. The amount of the mandatory eigen risico is set by Dutch law at a maximum of 385 euros per year.

You do not have to pay eigen risico for appointments with the GP. These appointments are fully reimbursed by your health insurance.

Flexible Human Services
Good news for you! Flexible Human Services has an insurance that covers these costs for you if you choose ZEM's collective insurance through Flexible Human Services. This means you don't have to pay the eigen risico of 385 euros! Normally everyone in the Netherlands has to pay the eigen risico when you go to the hospital; for an accident, another emergency or for an appointment with a specialist. If you get the collective insurance of ZEM through Flexible Human services: then you do not have to pay this money.

If you choose the collective insurance with ZEM through Flexible Human Services, you are insured from the day you sign your contract. If your contract expires, your health insurance automatically ends on the last day of your contract.

Personal contribution (Eigen Bijdrage) - Medicines
Your basic insurance does not reimburse all medicines. In the Netherlands, the law states which medicines are reimbursed. For some medicines you have to pay extra or pay everything yourself. This is called a 'eigen bijdrage'.

Payment during illness

On the first 1 or 2 days (depending on the type of contract) of your illness, "waiting days" are applied. You will not receive full payment for these days. After that, payment for illness depends on the type of contract, the number of hours you worked on average for the company in the weeks prior to your illness. To receive sick pay, you must comply with the obligations set out in Dutch law.

Company doctor

If your illness lasts longer; your employer will schedule an appointment with the company doctor for you. The company doctor is paid by the employer, but it is an independent doctor. The company doctor is a special doctor in the Netherlands. He or she is the only one who can advise you and your employer about your work ability with your illness. This is stipulated in Dutch law. The company doctor does not share any medical information with your employer, but only gives advice on the kind of work you can still do with your illness. For example, if you break a leg, you may not be able to do work that requires you to walk a lot, but you are fit to do sedentary work. Both your employer and you are obliged to follow the advice of the company doctor.

Dentist & physical therapy

Dental care and physical therapy are not included in your health insurance and you must pay for them yourself.

Flexible Human Services
Another benefit for you when you are collectively insured with ZEM through Flexible Human Services: Due to the collective contract with ZEM that Flexible Human Services has for their employees, in some cases there is reimbursement for physiotherapy and emergency dental care. However, this depends heavily on the situation and is considered by the insurance company on an individual basis.

Pregnant in the Netherlands

The Dutch health care system regarding pregnancy and prenatal checkups often works very differently than you are used to in your home country. Read this separate article on pregnancy in the Netherlands for more information.

Psychological and psychiatric assistance

If you have mental health problems, your GP may refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist. However, waiting lists for both specialists can be quite long, sometimes 6 months or longer. Moreover, it is quite difficult to see a psychologist if you do not speak Dutch (or possibly English). There are few psychologists in the Netherlands who speak other languages (such as Polish or Romanian). However, they are scarce and waiting lists can be even longer. Moreover, the cost of psychologists is not always covered by health insurance.

Moving to a new country, starting a new job, meeting new roommates can be challenging. If you are not feeling very well mentally, it may be advisable to get treatment for your mental health problems in your home country before moving abroad. In your home country, help can be offered in your own language, whereas in the Netherlands it is very difficult to get the right help if you do not speak Dutch (or English).

Read the article on psychological help in the Netherlands here.

Flexible Human Services
We offer our help to all workers. We do this without any legal obligation and more importantly; we do this for free! We understand that you feel terrible when you are sick. We understand that you may not know what to do, where to go and you may want our help right away. Our priority is the people who need it most. We do our best to help everyone as much as we can. We count on your kindness, patience and understanding as you can count on ours!