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Germany’s healthcare system is consistently ranked as one of the best in the world, and though treatment isn’t completely free, all expats in the country have full access to excellent public healthcare services via monthly payments.
Everyone in Germany – nationals and expats alike – must subscribe to some form of health insurance. Those within a specified income bracket are obliged to sign up for and make mandatory contributions to public health insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung). State health insurance covers medical and dental treatment, medicines, hospital treatment and sick pay.
Health insurance payments in Germany are deducted at source and contributions are split between employee and employer. These deductions will cover the majority of medical expenses.
Though workers in this position have no choice but to pay for state insurance, they are able to purchase additional private health insurance (Private Krankenversicherung) as a “top up”.
If one’s salary is above the specified income bracket, health insurance is still compulsory, but private insurance may be taken instead of public insurance, if preferred. For those earning high salaries, private insurance often works out cheaper since contributions are flat fees rather than percentage-based.
Expats looking to purchase private insurance should consider the option of taking out a policy with an international health insurance provider.
There are many benefits to being able to access private health insurance while working in Germany, including:
Citizens of EU countries who hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) should note that while it can be used temporarily, expats must take out German insurance after registering their presence in the country.
Once expats are registered with an insurance provider, they should consult a local listing of General Practitioners (GPs) in the area. These doctors are generally the first port of call for non-urgent conditions and can refer patients to specialists if necessary.
Most doctors can speak English, though it’s a good idea to brush up on some key German medical terms ahead of an appointment to better communicate.
Public hospitals throughout Germany are of a high standard and waiting times are generally very good. Under the state system, small co-payments must be made in certain instances, such as for prescription medicine, hospital treatment and outpatient rehabilitation treatment. Some people opt to take out extra private insurance to cover these costs.
About half of Germany’s hospitals are private. While they offer a similar standard of care to public hospitals, private hospitals have the additional benefits of more privacy, less crowded wards and more modern facilities. Waiting times in private hospitals are also even shorter than those in public hospitals.
Pharmacies and medicines
Prescribed medication is covered under the state healthcare system, requiring only a small co-payment from the patient. Non-prescription drugs aren’t covered and must be paid for in full.
Pharmacies, or Apotheken as they’re known in German, can easily be found throughout the country, usually along main roads. They can be easily identified by the large red “A” that appears on their signs. Pharmacists are knowledgeable and most can speak English.
Most pharmacies are only open on weekdays during the day and on Saturday mornings, though there are pharmacies in each area that stay open later. If one’s usual pharmacy is closed, there will be a notice on display listing nearby pharmacies with extended hours.
In a medical emergency, expats should dial the general EU emergency number, 112. Service on this line is German by default but operators may be able to speak English as well. Emergency services are generally timely and ambulances are well-equipped.