Healthcare in Germany

There is a lot to think about before moving to Germany. Not least the German healthcare system, which can appear complicated at first.

All salaried employees in Germany must have health insurance which is equivalent to the cover of the statutory health insurance. If you fall within a specific income band, joining a state healthcare scheme is usually compulsory. However, if your income is above or below these limits you can opt to take out private health insurance which can offer benefits, both financial and in quality of treatment, over state insurance.

Before venturing to another country, make sure you have a health insurance plan you can rely on. Our international health insurance plans offer comprehensive health cover for when you are in your home country and abroad.
The principal of social insurance in Germany is not new. It can be traced all the way back to the 19th century when craftsmen paid into insurance funds to cover ill-health. Today, coverage is based on two pillars, Statutory Health Insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) and Private Health Insurance (Private Krankenversicherung).

If your income is below a certain bracket, you are automatically insured on the statutory health insurance scheme. If your income is above this limit you can choose to be insured on statutory health insurance, however, it often works out more expensive than opting for a private option.

  1. Statutory health insurance in Germany provides a range of services and benefits, including medical and dental treatment, medication, hospital treatment and sick pay.
  2. Health insurance payments in Germany are deducted at source and contributions are split between you and your employer. These deductions will cover the majority of your medical expenses. However, to cover increasing costs of the state insurance scheme, public patients over the age of 18 are required to contribute a percentage of the cost of some services such as prescription medicine, hospital treatment, outpatient rehabilitation, and for some medications.

For more detail on the state health insurance, refer to ‘Social Security at a Glance’ for a comprehensive overview provided by the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

If your salary is above a certain income bracket, you have the option to access private health insurance in Germany. Civil servants or the self-employed in Germany can also choose private health insurance.

There are many benefits to being able to access private health insurance in Germany. Firstly, for higher paid professionals, private health insurance is often less expensive than the state scheme, as contributions to the state scheme are often calculated according to gross income. Furthermore, private health insurance allows access to private practice doctors as well as to semi-private and private rooms in hospitals, shorter waiting times, and provides more comprehensive cover for procedures. 

EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access state healthcare during a short-term visit. UK citizens can make use of their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the EHIC for UK citizens post-Brexit.

Non-EU expats will need to have private health insurance valid for their expected time of stay. Expats requiring chronic or specialist treatment should also consider private health insurance for peace of mind, choice of treatment centres, and comfort.

Pharmacies, or Apotheken as they're known locally, are easy to find and can be identified by a large red ‘A'. North American expats should note that a drug store, or Drogerie, in Germany sells toiletries and consumer goods but not medicines.

In German pharmacies, all medications including non-prescription drugs, are kept behind the counter. Only a selection of non-medicinal health products is available on the shelves.

Pharmacies in Germany tend to be well stocked. If a customer needs medicine that's not in stock, it can usually be ordered for pick-up a few hours later or the following day.

Most pharmacies are closed in the evenings, on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and holidays. Some even close early on Wednesdays. However, every pharmacy has a list on the door with pharmacies in the local area that stay open late to handle emergencies.

No special vaccinations are required for expats moving to Germany. However, routine vaccinations such as for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) tetanus, diphtheria, as well as for Covid-19, are recommended.

In the event of an emergency, expats can call an ambulance in Germany by dialling 115. With the exception of some smaller private hospitals, most hospitals in Germany will have an Accident and Emergency unit. 

If a patient arrives at a German hospital in an emergency situation, they will receive treatment even if they are unable to show proof of health insurance. However, if they aren't covered, their treatment is likely to be expensive.

Our plan, created in partnership with Allianz Private Krankenversicherungs-AG, was designed to suit the needs of expats living in Germany.