In Germany, health care quality is very high and waiting times to consult specialists or undergo surgery are rarely lengthy. Patients can choose their own GP and generally do not need any intermediary to consult a specialist. Healthcare costs, however, are rather expensive and coverage by health care funds is only partial.
When starting to work in Germany you will have to choose a health insurance provider and inform your employer.
Good to know:
The German health system encourages the prevention of illnesses. For example complying with annual dentist check ups (and proving this by collecting stamps) may result in lower dental expenses later. Some insurers cover a certain amount of preventative courses such as yoga or fitness classes every year.
Healthcare coverage is provided by both public and private health funds. Depending on your situation, you can either choose a public or private health coverage: if your annual gross income is below €57,600 (in 2017) you will need to register with one of the public health funds (Gesetzliche Krankenkasse). You can choose your own public health fund from a wide range of approved providers. The contribution will be deducted from your monthly salary. For some special care (eye and dental care), public health funds do not provide optimal protection. You can then take out supplementary private health insurance to get full coverage.
If your gross annual income is above €57,600, if you are self-employed, a freelancer, a public officer (Beamter) or a student, you may opt for a private health fund. Benefits are almost similar to that of the public system with comprehensive coverage for dental and eye care. Note that with a private health fund, you can adjust your level of coverage and your monthly contributions based on your own healthcare needs (if you are young, if you do not suffer from chronic diseases, etc.).
People with a higher income level often opt for private cover for financial reasons. The public health cover is at a fixed rate, which in most cases works out more expensive for high-level earners. The private insurance allows adapting the health cover to your individual needs and can therefore work out cheaper. Included services may differ, though the doctors mostly remain the same since you are free to choose your doctor with public insurance.
If you opt for private health cover, it may be very difficult to change back to the public health system later.
As a German resident you are obliged to have health insurance, otherwise you will be charged for outstanding contributions.
If you have a job you can choose among the public insurance providers. Insurance plans differ considerably in terms of contributions and voluntary benefits depending on your age or profession, so it well worth shopping around. You can change your public health insurance after 18 months – and a change is quite easy. There are currently 114 Gesetzliche Krankenkassen and most Germans are insured with AOK, DAK, Techniker Krankenkasse or Barmer. Spouses and children can also be insured on your plan.
If you are unemployed you will have to take on private insurance. In that case, make sure to double-check whether you will be able to access public insurance once you’ve secured a job. It can be tricky to access public health care after having been insured with a private insurance provider.
If you're travelling to Germany as a non-EU member, you need to take out private health insurance before departure. Optimal coverage is essential due to expensive health care costs that might arise from accident or serious illness.
European Health Insurance Card
EU citizens are covered in Germany through their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which can be helpful during the initial relocation period (if you are still insured in your home country. With the EHIC, health related costs in the country will be taken in charge in the same conditions as for German nationals. If you don't have an EHIC, visit your national health fund to get some information before leaving for Germany.
When moving your habitual residence to Germany, you should register with the S1 form rather than using the EHIC. You can contact your local health insurance authority to locate the relevant institution issuing the S1. Once in possession of the S1, you must submit the form with the local German authority. The EHIC does not cover costs if your purpose of your stay is obtaining medical treatment.