If you are thinking of living in Holland, studying, or working there long term you need to understand their health care system. It is very different to the system run in other countries.
A little background information about the Dutch health system
The name for the Dutch healthcare system is ‘Zorgverzekering vergelijken’, which roughly translates as health insurance comparison and it is one of the top search terms on Google.nl. This is because the way in which the Dutch government provides health care for its citizens underwent major changes in 2006, and even now, people are still getting to grips with the system.
Prior to 2006, the Dutch government like the majority of European countries met all the health care needs of their citizens using a state run system. In 2006, they changed track drastically and moved to a dual track health care system.
The current system explained
The current system is that if you need long term healthcare the government covers the cost of providing that treatment. However, for all short term medical needs you have to use private healthcare.
For a Brit or many other European residents this sounds alarming to say the least, because private healthcare is expensive in their own countries. When they hear that they have to buy private healthcare coverage to live in Holland they are worried that they will not be able to afford to do so. Luckily, it is not as bad as it seems because the government have put in place controls that have, to date, kept the price reasonable.
If you are a Dutch taxpayer and permanent resident the government will look after you if you are elderly, need a wheelchair, are terminally ill or something like that. However, if you break your arm you have to pay for that. To ensure that everyone can afford these costs the Dutch government has made it obligatory for taxpayers to take out health insurance to cover these costs.
Shopping around for Dutch healthcare
In general, the Dutch do not simply go out and buy the first thing they see. They are renowned for shopping around and getting value for money, so it is little wonder that the search term zorgverzekering vergelijken suddenly became so popular because every year the Dutch shop around for their cover using the internet.
There are plenty of Dutch websites out there that provide information and comparison services, which help people to avoid paying too much for their insurance. For expats who speak good Dutch this is definitely the way to shop around for health insurance.
For an expat who does not speak Dutch this approach may not be practical. If you are in that situation, your best sources of information are expat forums and other expats from your own country. If you are studying in a Dutch university or working for a firm that is based in Holland, they will give you good information in English.
While you are looking into moving to Holland, you do not have to buy private healthcare. At that stage travel insurance is OK. Use Thats Insurance to compare different policies and buy the right long-term travel insurance. It is only when you decide to move permanently, and start the process of applying for residency that you are legally bound to buy state approved health insurance.