Anyone who lives and works in the Netherlands are obligated to take out zorgversekering (health insurance). Sounds fair, but simple it is not. The daunting task of firstly choosing an insurer and then deciding which package you need may leave you dazed and confused. Hopefully Amsterdam Mamas can shed some light.  

Oh, how I’ve eagerly awaited this moment. This year I had a particularly bad experience with my insurance provider.  In the Netherlands, you can only change zorgversekering once a year, for the following year.  The switch deadline is the 31st of December.

In general it’s important to think about your plans next year. In the Netherlands you’re legally obligated to have basic insurance. The three main additional insurances people add are for:

1) physical therapy

2) dental

3) pregnancy.

However, you may also be interested in alternative medicine, accupuncture, psychotherapy, birth control, orthodontics, and glasses and lenses.

I’ve had a few insurers: Azivo, Zilveren Kruis, and Menzis. I have little brand loyalty towards insurers to be honest. I find very little product differentiation between them. I can say that Zilveren Kruis has decent customer service via e-mail and internet and an informative website which is in English as well. You’ll be hard-pressed to find that among other insurers. FBTO is also known to have good customer service via internet and e-mail. They even have an app that makes the claims process quicker, as does OHRA.

One big thing to look into when choosing an insurer is whether or not your employer or your partner’s has what they call a “collective” insurer here. This provides you with a decent discount. Some other ways to ratchet down the cost is to pay your premium on an annual rather than monthly basis and/or increase your eigen risico (own risk contribution) This contribution is an annual amount that you cover before your insurer pitches in. This doesn’t include visits to your GP, midwife, and basic dental. The required contribution for everyone is 385 EUR. You can increase this amount up to 885 EUR and with that your premium decreases. I find that not much gets docked off your contribution so it’s a nice way to save on premium.

Of course you have to consider what kind of patient you are. I’m not a big fan of the medical system here so I tend to avoid going to the doctor but I do think it’s important to have good dental care. So, outside of dental, I only have the most basic insurance, which worked for me as a young, healthy, and independent person. But last year I failed to consider the fact that I was trying to get pregnant and forgot to get additional insurance. I ended up having to pay over 300 EUR as I wanted to deliver in the hospital, not knowing that home births are all the rage here, and I had to pay for the kraamhulp (the woman that comes by the first 8 days of the baby’s life to help out). So ladies, if you’re trying to get pregnant remember to get additional insurance.

Some insurance companies allow you to add additional insurance at any time rather than once a year, such as FBTO. FBTO also allows you to choose 8 modules of additional insurance rather than one general option to upgrade. Unfortunately, if you turn on a module, the insurance doesn’t actually kick in till 6 months later and you can’t turn modules off. Still, I wish I had this option when I found out I was pregnant.

Another tip for expectant mothers: make sure you specify which organization you want your kraamhulp from. My insurer, Menzis, picked one for me which ended up being a disaster. Insurance companies make deals with certain organizations and prefer to use them. Menzis picked a kraamhulp from another city and they wanted me to pay for their parking. Living in the centre of Amsterdam where parking costs 5 EUR an hour, I was considerably annoyed with this proposal especially when I found out that a kraamhulp in Amsterdam takes public transport, a bike or moped, or has a parking permit. I had to scramble to find a local kraamhulp that still had room in their schedule and Menzis wouldn’t cover any services I had already received from the one they chose.

Now that I have a child and got burned for not adding an additional insurance during the pregnancy, I checked into whether it pays off to get additional insurance for him. Children are insured for free and until your kid needs glasses or braces all their fundamental medical needs are insured in the basic insurance. You will need to register them with your insurance though.

One last tip: you can claim medical costs you paid yourself when you file your taxes in the spring. Annual costs adding up beyond 500 EUR are tax-deductible. So make sure you keep those receipts. Here are links to a few health insurance providers – FBTO, Zilveren Kruis, OHRA, Unive, CZ, VGZ, and Amersfoortse

Insurance comparison sites are also very helpful, check out Independer, Verzekeringssite, and ZorgKiezer.

This article was originally published on and is reproduced here with permission from Liz Schoen.

Liz Schoen