It’s that time of year again: the Black Pete debate is on, Americans are wishing they were home for Thanksgiving, everyone’s filling in their Christmas lists, and people can finally change medical insurance providers. Oh, how I’ve eagerly been awaiting this moment. This year I had a particularly bad experience with my insurance provider.
In general it’s important to think about your plans next year. There are three main items to consider adding to your basic insurance. BTW, in Holland you’re legally obligated to have basic insurance. The 3 main additional insurances people add are for: 1) physical therapy, 2) dental, and 3) pregnancy. However you may also be interested in alternative medicine, psychotherapy, birth control, orthodontics, and glasses & 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.
One big thing to look into when choosing an insurer is whether or not your or your partner’s employer 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 “Own Risk” contribution (in Dutch: Eigen Risico). 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 220 EUR. You can increase this amount up to 720 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 for the fact that 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 would have 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 center 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 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.
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.
Below are links to FBTO, Zilveren Kruis and a few other insurance providers. There are also links to insurance comparison sites Independer, Verzekeringssite, and ZorgKiezer.