In the Netherlands, it is your responsibility to find and choose your own doctor (huisarts). It is most common to choose a doctor who is close to your home, usually only around ten to fifteen minutes away. Often your insurance company will provide a list of doctors to choose from, or you can find one using the websites docvadis.nl or zorgkaartnederland.nl (unfortunately both are only in Dutch).
Quick Hint: If you're living in Amsterdam, and you're looking for an English-speaking general practitioner, we suggest http://hapk.nl/site/EN/index.html.
You should use the doctor as the first consultation for all non-emergency medical problems, such as physical injury, general sickness and psychological problems. You can make an appointment to see the doctor over the phone. When you first make an appointment to meet your doctor, be sure to bring any relevant medical records. Each doctor is of course different, but generally you will be able to get an appointment for within 72 hours.
In order to receive non-urgent treatment at a hospital or specialist you are required to have a letter of referral from your doctor and will need to inform your insurance company and check your policy.
Your health insurance covers the cost of consultations with your doctor, either through a contracted care policy (naturapolis) where the doctors bills the insurer directly, or through a non contracted care policy (restitutiepolis) where you receive the bill from the doctor and then you have to get reimbursed by your insurer yourself. You should make sure you know which policy you have taken out so you will not receive any surprises.
You pick up your prescriptions for medicine from a pharmacy. You may find that you receive less antibiotics or other drugs than you are used to, as doctors in the Netherlands are more careful not to overprescribe as this can lead to increased resistence against antibiotics in the future. If the pharmacy deals with your particular insurance scheme, you won't have to pay bills directly.
You can also find a dentist (tandarts) through your insurance company, or by using the Netherlands Yellow Pages. You will need to make sure when you first take out your policy that it covers dental treatment, and if not, you will be able to add an extra dental component. Without this though, your normal medical insurance will not cover dental medicine. If you are not insured for dental treatment, you can opt to pay for treatment normally.
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