Healthcare and Insurance: A Guide for Expats in Berlin

Discover everything you need to know about healthcare and insurance as an expat in Berlin. Our comprehensive guide covers public and private health insurance options, how to find English-speaking doctors, and tips for navigating the German healthcare system.

Berlin, the vibrant and culturally rich capital of Germany, has become a magnet for expatriates from all over the globe. With its dynamic job market, thriving arts scene, and a high quality of life, it’s no wonder that many choose to make Berlin their new home. However, one of the most critical aspects of settling into life in a new country is understanding the local healthcare and insurance systems. For expats, navigating these systems can be particularly challenging due to language barriers, differing regulations, and the need for proper documentation.

Whether you’re moving to Berlin for work, study, or simply a change of scenery, ensuring you have adequate healthcare coverage is paramount. Germany boasts one of the most efficient and comprehensive healthcare systems in the world, providing excellent medical services to its residents. However, the system can be complex, especially for newcomers who are unfamiliar with its intricacies.

This guide aims to demystify the healthcare and insurance landscape in Berlin for expatriates. We will explore the different types of health insurance available, how to choose the right plan for your needs, and what you need to know about accessing healthcare services in the city. From understanding the statutory (public) health insurance system to the nuances of private health insurance, this guide will equip you with the essential knowledge to make informed decisions about your healthcare in Berlin.

In addition to outlining the insurance options, we will provide practical tips on finding English-speaking doctors, making appointments, and navigating the pharmacy system. Understanding these aspects is crucial for ensuring that you and your family receive timely and effective medical care, which is an integral part of a smooth and successful integration into Berlin life.

Moving to a new country involves many adjustments, and healthcare should be one less thing to worry about. With the right information and resources, you can confidently manage your health needs and enjoy all that Berlin has to offer. Read on to learn more about healthcare and insurance in Berlin, tailored specifically for expatriates like you.

Overview of the German Healthcare System

Germany’s healthcare system is widely recognized for its high quality, accessibility, and comprehensive coverage. As an expat in Berlin, understanding the structure and functioning of this system is crucial for ensuring that you and your family receive the medical care you need. Here is a detailed overview of the key components of the German healthcare system.

1. Statutory Health Insurance (GKV)

Statutory health insurance, known as Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung (GKV), forms the backbone of the German healthcare system. It is mandatory for most residents, and around 90% of the population is enrolled in GKV.

Eligibility: Employees earning below a certain income threshold (approximately €66,600 annually in 2024) are required to have statutory health insurance. Additionally, students, pensioners, and unemployed individuals typically fall under this category.

Providers: Numerous public health insurance funds (Krankenkassen) operate under GKV. Some of the prominent ones include Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), AOK, and Barmer. These providers offer similar benefits but may differ in terms of customer service, additional services, and bonus programs.

Coverage: GKV covers a wide range of medical services, ensuring that essential healthcare needs are met. This includes:

Doctor Visits: Consultations with general practitioners and specialists.

Hospital Stays: Inpatient care and surgeries.

Prescription Medications: Medications prescribed by doctors, though a small co-payment is usually required.

Preventive Care: Routine check-ups, vaccinations, and screenings.

Maternity Care: Comprehensive care before, during, and after childbirth.

Cost: Contributions to GKV are based on income, with the standard rate being around 14.6% of gross salary, shared equally between employer and employee. Additionally, there is a supplemental contribution rate, which varies by provider, usually around 1-2%.

2. Private Health Insurance (PKV)

Private health insurance, or Private Krankenversicherung (PKV), offers an alternative to GKV, particularly for those who meet specific criteria.

Eligibility: PKV is available to individuals with higher incomes (above the threshold for GKV), self-employed persons, civil servants, and those who opt out of the statutory system. Eligibility for PKV allows for more personalized insurance options.

Providers: There are numerous private insurers offering PKV, such as Allianz, AXA, and BARMER. These providers offer a wide range of plans tailored to individual needs.

Coverage: PKV plans can offer more extensive services compared to GKV. Depending on the plan, benefits may include:

Enhanced Hospital Accommodation: Private rooms and the choice of treating physicians.

Shorter Waiting Times: Faster access to specialists and treatments.

Additional Services: Coverage for alternative therapies, advanced dental care, and other specialized treatments.

Cost: Premiums for PKV are not based on income but on individual risk factors such as age, health condition, and the level of coverage selected. Young and healthy individuals often find PKV to be more cost-effective initially, but premiums can increase with age and health issues.

3. Supplementary Insurance

In addition to primary health insurance, residents in Germany often opt for supplementary insurance to cover specific needs not fully addressed by GKV or PKV.

Dental Insurance: Dental care is partially covered by GKV, but many people opt for supplementary dental insurance to cover advanced procedures and orthodontics.

Travel Insurance: Supplementary travel insurance is beneficial for expats who travel frequently, ensuring coverage for medical emergencies abroad.

Long-Term Care Insurance: Germany also mandates long-term care insurance (Pflegeversicherung) to cover the costs associated with long-term care due to old age or severe disability.

4. Healthcare Providers and Access

Germany has a vast network of healthcare providers, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices. Here’s how you can access these services:

Finding a Doctor: You can choose any general practitioner (Hausarzt) or specialist. Many expats use online platforms like Doctolib or Jameda to find English-speaking doctors.

Making Appointments: For non-emergency situations, appointments are generally required. Emergency services are accessible at hospitals or by calling 112.

Pharmacies (Apotheken): Pharmacies are widely available, offering both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Some pharmacies provide 24-hour service.

5. Integration with the European Healthcare System

Germany’s healthcare system is integrated with the broader European health infrastructure. For expats from EU countries, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) ensures access to emergency medical services during short stays in Germany.

Germany’s healthcare system is designed to provide comprehensive and high-quality care to all residents, including expatriates. By understanding the differences between statutory and private health insurance, assessing your eligibility and needs, and navigating the healthcare providers in Berlin, you can ensure that you receive the medical care you need while enjoying your new life in Germany.

Accessing Healthcare in Berlin

Navigating the healthcare system in a new city can be daunting, but Berlin offers a robust network of medical services designed to cater to both locals and expatriates. Understanding how to access these services is crucial for ensuring that you receive the care you need when you need it. Here’s a comprehensive guide to accessing healthcare in Berlin:

1. Finding a Doctor

General Practitioners (Hausärzte):

Role: General practitioners serve as the first point of contact for non-emergency medical issues. They provide general health assessments, manage chronic conditions, and can refer you to specialists if needed.

How to Find One: You can search for a Hausarzt using online platforms like Doctolib or Jameda, which offer listings of doctors along with patient reviews and the option to filter for English-speaking doctors.


Types: Berlin has a wide range of medical specialists, including dermatologists, cardiologists, orthopedists, and more.

Referrals: While you can often book an appointment with a specialist directly, it’s common practice to get a referral from your Hausarzt, which can sometimes expedite the appointment process.

2. Making Appointments

Booking Methods:

Online: Many medical practices in Berlin allow you to book appointments online through their websites or via platforms like Doctolib and Jameda.

Phone: Calling the doctor’s office directly is another common way to schedule an appointment.

Walk-ins: Some practices accept walk-ins, but it’s generally advisable to book an appointment to avoid long waiting times.

Waiting Times:

General Practitioners: Appointments with general practitioners can often be made within a few days, though it might take longer during peak times.

Specialists: Waiting times for specialists can vary significantly. For non-urgent cases, it might take a few weeks to get an appointment, while urgent referrals can often be accommodated more quickly.

3. Emergency Care

Emergency Numbers:

112: This is the universal emergency number for medical emergencies, fire, and police in Germany.

116 117: This number connects you to the medical on-call service for urgent but non-life-threatening medical issues outside regular office hours.

Hospitals (Krankenhäuser):

Emergency Departments (Notaufnahme): Major hospitals in Berlin have emergency departments that provide immediate care for serious injuries and illnesses. Some well-known hospitals include Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Vivantes, and DRK Kliniken.

Walk-In Clinics: For less urgent issues, walk-in clinics (Ärztehäuser) offer a convenient option for receiving care without an appointment.

4. Pharmacies (Apotheken)


Medication: Pharmacies dispense both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Prescription medications require a doctor’s prescription.

Consultation: Pharmacists can provide advice on minor health issues and recommend over-the-counter treatments.

Finding a Pharmacy:

24-Hour Pharmacies: Some pharmacies operate 24/7, providing access to medications and advice at all times. Look for signs indicating “Notdienst” for pharmacies that are open outside regular hours.

Locations: Pharmacies are widespread across Berlin, and you can find the nearest one using online maps or pharmacy locators.

5. Health Insurance Documentation

Insurance Card (Krankenversicherungskarte):

Usage: Always carry your health insurance card, as it’s required for most medical appointments and pharmacy visits. This card contains your insurance details and is used for billing purposes.

Digital Options: Some health insurance providers offer digital versions of the card accessible via mobile apps.

6. Language and Communication

Language Barrier:

English-Speaking Services: Many healthcare providers in Berlin speak English, especially in areas with high expat populations. However, it’s beneficial to know basic German medical terms.

Translation Services: For those who are not comfortable with German, some medical practices offer translation services, or you can bring a translator with you.


Medical History: Be prepared to provide a detailed medical history, including any chronic conditions, medications, and past treatments. It’s helpful to have this information written down in both English and German.

7. Costs and Payments

Public Insurance (GKV):

Coverage: Most medical services are covered, including doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescriptions. Co-payments are generally low.

Billing: Services are typically billed directly to your health insurance provider.

Private Insurance (PKV):

Coverage: Coverage depends on your specific plan, which might include additional services not covered by public insurance.

Billing: You might need to pay upfront and then submit receipts to your insurance provider for reimbursement.

Accessing healthcare in Berlin as an expat may seem overwhelming at first, but the city offers a well-organized and accessible healthcare system designed to cater to both locals and foreigners. By understanding how to find the right doctors, make appointments, access emergency care, and navigate pharmacies, you can ensure that you and your family receive the necessary medical attention efficiently and effectively. Familiarize yourself with the health insurance requirements and keep your documentation handy to facilitate smooth interactions with healthcare providers. With this knowledge, you can confidently manage your healthcare needs and focus on enjoying your life in Berlin.

How Berlin Translate Can Help

Navigating the healthcare and insurance systems in a new country can be challenging, especially with language barriers and unfamiliar terminology. This is where Berlin Translate, your trusted French-German translation agency, can make a significant difference. Here’s how our services can assist expatriates in Berlin:

1. Medical Document Translation

Accurate Translation of Medical Records:

Health Records: We provide precise translations of your medical history, ensuring that all critical information is accurately conveyed to healthcare providers in Berlin.

Prescriptions: Translating prescription information to avoid misunderstandings with pharmacists.

Test Results: Clear and accurate translations of lab results, imaging reports, and other medical documents.

Insurance Documentation:

Policy Documents: Translating your health insurance policies and terms and conditions so you fully understand your coverage.

Claims and Correspondence: Assisting with translations of claims forms and any correspondence with your insurance provider.

2. Appointment Coordination

Making Appointments:

Multilingual Assistance: Our team can help you make appointments with doctors and specialists, ensuring that language barriers do not prevent you from accessing the healthcare you need.

Follow-Up Communication: We can assist in communicating with healthcare providers for follow-up appointments and clarifications.

Emergency Services:

Emergency Contacts: Providing translated emergency contact information and instructions to ensure you can quickly and effectively communicate in case of an emergency.

3. Pharmacy and Medication Assistance

Medication Instructions:

Prescription Translations: Clear translations of prescription instructions to ensure proper medication usage.

OTC Medications: Assisting with the translation of over-the-counter medication labels and instructions.

Pharmacy Navigation:

Finding Pharmacies: Helping you locate nearby pharmacies that can cater to your needs and possibly have English-speaking staff.

4. Language Support in Healthcare Settings

Interpreter Services:

In-Person Interpretation: Providing professional interpreters for medical appointments to facilitate clear communication between you and your healthcare provider.

Telephone and Video Interpretation: Offering remote interpretation services for telehealth appointments and other healthcare interactions.

Language Classes and Support:

Basic Medical German: Offering language classes focused on medical German to help you understand and communicate basic health-related terms and phrases.

Cultural Orientation: Providing cultural orientation sessions to help you understand the German healthcare system and what to expect during medical visits.

5. Customized Expat Support

Personalized Services:

Tailored Solutions: Offering customized translation and language support services based on your specific healthcare and insurance needs.

Expatriate Consultation: Providing consultation services to help you understand and navigate the healthcare and insurance landscape in Berlin.

Community Resources:

Local Networks: Connecting you with local expat groups and resources that can provide additional support and information.

Information Packages: Providing comprehensive information packages about Berlin’s healthcare system, including tips and best practices for expats.

Berlin Translate is dedicated to making your transition to life in Berlin as smooth and stress-free as possible. Our comprehensive translation and language support services ensure that language barriers do not hinder your access to high-quality healthcare and insurance services. By leveraging our expertise, you can confidently navigate the German healthcare system and focus on enjoying your new life in Berlin. Whether you need medical document translations, appointment coordination, or interpreter services, Berlin Translate is here to help every step of the way.


Navigating the healthcare and insurance systems in Berlin as an expat can initially seem daunting, but with a clear understanding of the options and processes, you can ensure you and your family receive the necessary care and protection. By choosing the right insurance plan and familiarizing yourself with the healthcare facilities, you’ll be well-equipped to enjoy your time in this dynamic and multicultural city.

For further information and personalized advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to local experts or expat support networks. Your health and well-being are crucial as you embark on your new adventure in Berlin.

Useful Links on Healthcare and Insurance for Expats in Berlin

1. Federal Ministry of Health (Bundesministerium für Gesundheit)

Federal Ministry of Health – Healthcare in Germany

• Provides official information on the German healthcare system.

2. Berlin Health Portal – Health

• Offers resources and information on healthcare services in Berlin.

3. Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF)

BAMF – Healthcare Information for Immigrants

• Detailed information on healthcare options for immigrants and expatriates.

4. Germany Visa

Germany Visa – Health Insurance

• Comprehensive guide on health insurance requirements for expats in Germany.

5. Expatica

Expatica – Healthcare in Germany

• An overview of the healthcare system, including how to access services as an expat.

6. How to Germany

How to Germany – Health Insurance

• Detailed articles on health insurance options and requirements for expatriates in Germany.

7. Make it in Germany

Make it in Germany – Health Insurance

• Government-backed portal providing information on health insurance for skilled workers and expats.

8. – Health Insurance

• Detailed information and advice on health insurance for expatriates in Germany.

9. Just Landed

Just Landed – Healthcare in Germany

• A practical guide to understanding and accessing healthcare services in Germany.

10. Doctolib


• Platform to find and book appointments with doctors, including English-speaking practitioners in Berlin.

11. Jameda


• Germany’s largest healthcare review platform to find and book appointments with doctors and specialists.

12. Berlin Translate

Berlin Translate – Translation Services

• Your trusted translation agency for medical documents, insurance paperwork, and language support in Berlin.

These links provide valuable resources for understanding and navigating the healthcare and insurance systems in Berlin, ensuring that you can access the care you need as an expat.

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