The German health care system
The German health care system has the reputation of being one of the best in the world. There is an extensive network of hospitals and doctors covering even the remotest areas of Germany. Waiting lists for treatments are rare. Medical facilities are equipped with the latest technology and the statutory health insurance scheme provides nearly full cover for most medical treatments and medicines. Almost everybody in Germany has access to this system, irrespective of income or social status. The downside is that medical costs are high. Health care costs - for doctors, hospital stays and even medicines - are among the most expensive in the world. There is no such thing as "free" treatment in Germany, not even in state hospitals. All care, including emergencies, has to be paid for by you or your health insurance! When coming to Germany, it is therefore extremely important to have a full health care insurance, as a serious illness could cause a financial disaster. In most cases, you will even be obliged to prove you have adequate cover. See our section on health insurance for details. Health insurance
How to cover your medical expenses in Germany
Your first priority when coming to Germany should be health insurance. Medication, doctors and hospitals are extremely expensive, so you must make sure that you are covered for sickness and emergencies. In addition, you will usually not get a residency permit without proof of adequate insurance. Health insurance is also mandatory for all employees and students in Germany, so you will not be able to start working or studying without it. In 2007, there were some 200.000 persons living in Germany without health insurance coverage. With the health insurance reform of 2007, the German government has now implemented a new insurance law which makes insurance mandatory for everybody living in Germany. When living in Germany, this law will also apply to you. There is an EU agreement which guarantees free medical treatment for EU citizens in Germany. Since the 1st June 2004, European citizens who are travelling within the European Economic Area are given a European Health Insurance Card, which simplifies the procedure when receiving medical assistance during their stay in a Member State. The European Health Insurance Card replaces forms E111 and E111B, E110, E128 and E119. However, if you wish to take up long-term residence in Germany you must exchange the card for a local health insurance scheme. Health insurance contributions are split 50-50 between employers and employees, independent on whether you opt for a statutory or private insurance schemes. Students are offered special student insurance schemes with favorable rates. Note that health insurance in Germany is part of the social security system. More information about this system can be found in our chapter on social security. Statutory and private health insurance
In Germany, there are two parallel health insurance systems: (a) State health insurance is run by German government. Most foreigners (and Germans as well) are obliged to take out state health insurance. (b) Private health insurance can be chosen in some specific cases. It generally offers more extensive cover, but is not automatically an advantage for all cases.
Almost everyone can join the state insurance scheme, but only a few people are allowed to leave this system for a private insurance. To work out which insurance scheme fits is best for you, follow these steps: (a) Find out whether you can choose between private and public insurance. If you're obliged to join the state system, it is irrelevant to compare it with private insurance. To find out whether the state system is mandatory for you, have look at our information below. (b) IF you are allowed to take a private health insurance, you should compare the advantages and disadvantages of both systems before making a final...