The German Healthcare System

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What Expatriates Need to Know

When expatriating to Germany, it is crucial to understand the country’s healthcare system and how to access medical care. Germany is renowned for its high-quality healthcare system, providing extensive coverage and access to advanced treatments. In this article, we will explore the key aspects of the German healthcare system that expatriates should be aware of.

Mandatory Health Insurance

In Germany, health insurance is mandatory for all residents. Expatriates must obtain health insurance, either through a private insurance provider or by joining the public health insurance system, known as Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung (GKV). GKV is generally recommended as it offers comprehensive coverage at an affordable cost. Monthly contributions are calculated based on income and are shared between the employer and the employee.

Access to Healthcare

Once insured, you have access to a wide range of medical care in Germany. Physicians and specialists are highly qualified and utilize the latest medical advancements. Primary care is typically provided by general practitioners (Hausarzt), who serve as your first point of contact for common health issues. They can refer you to specialists if needed. It is important to note that you must consult a general practitioner before making an appointment with a specialist unless it is an emergency situation.

Hospitals and Hospital Services

Hospitals in Germany are modern and well-equipped, offering a wide range of medical services, from emergency care to specialized treatments. Wait times for non-urgent treatments may vary depending on the region and specialty. Germany is also known for its world-renowned specialized clinics, attracting patients from around the world for specific treatments.

Pharmacies and Medications

Pharmacies (Apotheke) are widespread in Germany and offer a wide range of medications. Prescription drugs require a prescription issued by a physician. Over-the-counter medications are available without a prescription, but it is advisable to seek advice from a pharmacist before using them. Health insurance typically partially reimburses medications, but a financial contribution known as “Zuzahlung” may be required.

Specialized Medical Services

Germany is renowned for its high-quality specialized medical services. Many patients from around the world come to Germany for specialized treatments such as cardiac surgery, organ transplants, neurosurgery, and more. Expatriates have access to these technical services, but it is important to check if your health insurance covers these specific treatments and follow any necessary pre-authorization procedures.

Emergency Services

In case of a medical emergency, dial 112, the emergency hotline in Germany. Emergency services are generally prompt and efficient, providing immediate medical assistance. German hospitals are well-equipped to handle emergencies, and the medical teams are highly qualified.

Supplementary Insurance

While mandatory health insurance provides comprehensive coverage, many German residents also opt for private supplementary insurance (Zusatzversicherung). This additional insurance typically covers expenses not reimbursed by the mandatory insurance, such as dental care, acupuncture, alternative treatments, etc. As an expatriate, it is important to understand the available supplementary insurance options to meet your specific needs.


The German healthcare system offers high-quality medical care and extensive access to treatments. Expatriates must obtain mandatory health insurance and understand the available medical services. Whether it is primary care, specialists, hospitals, or emergency services, Germany has a robust healthcare infrastructure. By familiarizing yourself with the German healthcare system and taking the necessary steps to obtain adequate coverage, you can benefit from quality medical care during your stay in Germany.

If you need translation assistance for medical documents or communications related to your health in Germany, trust Berlin Translate. Our specialized translators are here to help you overcome language barriers and facilitate your access to German healthcare.

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