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Health insurance

Are you an international researcher working for Leiden University? Please note that you probably are legally obliged to take out health insurance. Here you will find if you need a public or a private health insurance, and how to apply for it.

Flowchart health insurance international researchers

The philosophy underpinning the Dutch healthcare system is based on several more or less universal principles: access to care for all. A detailed explanation of healthcare in the Netherlands you can find in the publication of the Dutch Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport.

Everyone employed (= on payroll) in the Netherlands is obliged to take out Dutch public health insurance (basisverzekering). If you are not insured within 4 months after arrival, you will receive a letter of the CAK asking you to sign up for health insurance. If you do not, you will receive a fine (2017: €385). Also, your monthly insurance premiums will be charged retroactively.

Step-by-step towards insurance

Here is a step-by-step plan to help you get insurance:

  1. Register at the local municipality. You will receive your social security number (BSN) and your residence permit, which you need to apply for public health insurance.
  2. Choose your insurer. Dutch health insurers are obliged to accept everyone for the basic package. This can be extended with supplementary insurance (subject to acceptance) to suit your personal situation. You can take part in a special public health insurance for employees of Leiden University (with discount) or compare different health insurance policies on Zorgwijzer.
  3. Apply for public health insurance.
  4. Your health insurance will start (retroactively) from the day you start working. Or, if you reside on a residence permit, on the start date mentioned on your card.

Cover the first months

To cover the period from departure and the time needed to complete your application for the public health insurance, you have 2 options:

  1. You keep or take out health insurance in your home country which covers healthcare costs in the Netherlands. 
  2. You take out private health insurance (ziektekostenverzekering) in the Netherlands. You should cancel this private health insurance when you are covered by your public health insurance.

Public health insurance and supplementary insurance

The Dutch public health insurance (basisverzekering) covers the cost of basic medical care. By this we mean medical expenses only. It does not cover:

  • personal liability
  • accidents
  • repatriation to your home country
  • home contents
  • legal assistance

Supplementary insurance package

For extra coverage of medical costs, e.g. extensive dental treatment, physiotherapy or anything else, you can take out an additional policy at your health insurer. You can change your type of health insurance only once a year. Cancel your old insurance before 1st of January and take out a new one before 1st of February.

Compulsory excess (personal contribution)

Before you receive reimbursement from your insurer, you may have to pay an amount yourself: the compulsory excess (verplicht eigen risico or personal contribution). For 2017 the excess is set at €385 for healthcare. Bills exceeding this excess will be paid directly via your insurer, depending on your chosen policy.

For many medical consults you do not have to pay excess. Examples are:

  • Consulting your general practitioner (except for external laboratory tests)
  • Integrated care
  • Maternity care and obstetric care (except laboratory tests, medicines, chorionic villus sampling and ambulance services)
  • Care appliances used on a temporary basis
  • Care for children up to 18 years 

More information on health insurance (in English and other EU languages) is available on the Ministry of Health’s website and Euraxess.

If you are here for a short stay (between 1-3 years) and/or you do not receive salary from the university or any other employer, you might not be able to take out public health insurance (basisverzekering). In that case, you have 2 alternatives:

  1. Take out health insurance from your home country, which also covers healthcare costs in the Netherlands.
  2. Take out private health insurance (ziektekostenverzekering) in the Netherlands for the time of your stay.

Leiden University strongly advises international staff to take out a health insurance that covers pre-existing conditions to avoid being faced with high unexpected costs in the unfortunate event of illness.

You may receive a letter from the National Health Care Institute (CAK) stating that, according to their records, you are not insured and must take out Dutch public health insurance (basiszorgverzekering) immediately. It is important that you respond to this letter within three months, even if you think you have received it by mistake, otherwise you risk being fined. 

Special insurance for guest employees

Leiden University has reached a favourable agreement with AON insurance for all international staff NOT on the payroll. The most important benefit about this insurance is that it covers pre-existing conditions for guest employees and all accompanying family members. As a bonus there are some additional insurances attached, including liability, legal and personal items (travel).


Apply at the AON website. If you're unsure if you can apply for the Basisverzekering or not, please contact your HR department or Service Centre International Staff to check what applies to you.

You may not be on the payroll, but still not be sure if you need a public or private insurance. For instance because you are taking up permanent residence. 

To find out if you need a public or private insurance, apply for a Wlz insurance assessment.

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