Great healthcare that won’t break the bank
by Brett Andrews
About Germany Healthcare
Germany has one of the most renowned healthcare systems in the world. Most of its residents are enrolled in the public health insurance scheme, paid for by taxpayers’ national contributions. This allows access to high-quality healthcare, regardless of income. Many medical staff speak English.
Germany’s public healthcare system gets its funding from general wage contributions and supplemental contributions, shared among employers and workers. Nongovernmental insurers known as sickness funds manage insurance administration duties. These sickness funds provide a range of deductibles, with copays applied to inpatient services and drugs. While it maintains broad regulatory power, the federal government doesn’t directly control healthcare delivery.
Health insurance is compulsory for all residents here, regardless of employment. Expats can participate in the statutory plan if they’re formally employed by a company in Germany or pay into the system directly. Otherwise, you’ll need to have comprehensive health insurance in place before arriving here.
Pharmacies (apotheken) can be identified by the large red “A” sign. They’re well-stocked, though all medications are kept behind the counter. Pharmacies are open during the day and will have a display of nearby after-hours locations in the window.
Below are some estimates for typical medical costs for public care:
|Primary care physician
||Up to €10/quarter
||€10 per day
(max 28 days)
|Prescribed medical devices
|Prescribed vision aids
|Maternity care (prenatal and postnatal)
Finding a Physician
To find your Haursatz (family doctor), simply check availability for the physicians in your area, either online or by phone. Ask about getting registered with your doctor at the first appointment; each doctor has a set number of patients they can service in the public/private sectors.
In order to see a Facharzt (specialist) in the public system, you’ll need to ask your family doctor for a referral. Some private health plans allow you to contact the specialist directly for an appointment.
If you have private insurance in Germany, you can contact your insurer directly for recommendations or a list of approved providers, including specialists.
Public health insurance is heavily subsidized for all citizens and legal residents in Germany. Once you’re a resident here, you’ll register with the Gesetzliche Krankenkasse (statutory health insurance). Contributions are shared with your employer if you work for a German company. Freelancers would pay about 15% of their monthly salary for the public option, while students under 30 pay about $130 per month. Pre-existing conditions are not an issue in the public scheme.
Most Americans choose to carry international insurance if they aren’t employed by a German company or paying into the public health system. Premiums may be higher if you have pre-existing conditions, though you cannot be denied because of said conditions. These have a monthly premium and deductible, much like US policies. Some people use private plans to supplement their public healthcare coverage with more options. Private insurance requires you to file for prescription reimbursement, unlike the public plan’s $7 – $13 USD drug costs.
Out-of-pocket costs are generally not an option for expat residents in Germany. Enrollment in the public system or a private insurance plan are required to get your residence visa or attend school.
- Schedule final appointments with your primary care physician and any specialists you see.
- Research your medications for availability in Germany and find alternatives where needed.
- Stock up on prescription refills until you can get to the pharmacy in Germany. It’s a dance because you’ll save money by filling your prescriptions in Germany, but it may take time for you to learn your way around.
- Print out and keep photographic records of all your prescriptions.
- Request your medical records and, ideally, upload them to a cloud server where you can access them anywhere. Alternatively, printouts, desktop files, and thumb drives also work.
- Ask your providers for referrals abroad. You never know!
- Apply for private insurance or show proof of insurance under your German employer, which is required for residence visas.
- For public healthcare, register with Gesetzliche Krankenkasse.
- For private healthcare, apply for private insurance (Krankenversicherung) and get physician names. Visit your expat Facebook group or other forums to ask for recommendations.
- See your family doctor and get prescriptions and referrals.