Healthcare in Germany: A guide to the German healthcare system (2023)

The German healthcare system is one of the best in the world, with universal coverage that means nobody lives in fear of huge medical bills. But one of the reasons the system is so good is just how much detail it contains - which can make it tough to take in. If you’re new to Germany or heading there soon, our guide will give you the key details involved in this complex but impressive system.

Quick facts on the healthcare system in Germany

Money in Germany is denominated in Euros - EUR if you’re talking about currency exchange, or simply € if you’re mentioning prices. But once you’re set up with German health insurance, you shouldn’t be looking at too many upfront costs at all.

  • Public, private or universal healthcare: Germany has universal healthcare coverage, which means everyone living in Germany must have health insurance.
  • Percentage on public vs private health insurance: Most people have public health insurance, but around 10% have private.
  • Population % covered by health insurance: 100%
  • Average cost for public health insurance for 1 person is 7.5% of income, or 15% if you’re self-employed.
  • Number of pharmacies: Over 20,000 pharmacies in Germany, or one per every 4,000 people
  • Number of hospitals: Around 2,000.

Average cost of healthcare in Germany

Is healthcare free in Germany?

German healthcare isn’t free, but when you’re covered with health insurance, getting ill shouldn’t be a costly affair. For most people, health insurance is paid for through your monthly salary - you’ll have to contribute around 7.5% of it. But there are lots of exceptions to this, as this article will cover later.

If you’re moving to Germany, it will be vital to have enough euros around at the beginning of your trip so that you’re covered for all the expenses you’ll face, including initial health insurance costs. Make sure you don’t lose out when transferring your money from your old bank account - Wise is fair and gives you the same exchange rate you find on Google, meaning you don’t end up paying big cuts like you do with banks and normal money transfer services. And with a Borderless account you can even hold your money in euros or up to 27 other currencies and then pay out to your German bank account at any time, protecting you against fluctuations in currency rates.

(Video) Explaining the German Health Care System - An Overview

Germany’s medical system: Public, private, universal, national, state, single payer, which is it?

Germany has a universal healthcare system - one of the world’s oldest, in fact, dating back to the 1880s. It’s a legal obligation for everyone living in Germany to have health insurance and there are restrictions on the type of insurance that people can have, too.

There are both public and private systems in Germany. Most people have to have gesetzliche Krankenversicherung (statutory / public insurance). However, certain groups have the right to take private Krankenversicherung (private insurance) instead if they want to.

The German state healthcare system

Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung (GKV) is a system run by the German state, although it is administered by independent non-profits. There are over 100 of these to choose between, but because they are closely regulated by the state, they all offer similar policies with similar benefits. Most people in Germany have to have GKV.

If you have a job, GKV costs around 7.5% of your monthly salary and your employer contributes about the same amount on top. The overall contribution is, therefore, about 15% of your wages, but you only pay half of that yourself. If you’re self-employed, you’re personally responsible for the full 15%. This is why many self-employed people go private - it can work out cheaper.

However, for self-employed people working in an artistic field, the government offers to pay half of the bill in the same way that an employer would. This is done via the Künstlersozialkasse (KSK), and it means that state healthcare is often the cheapest and safest option for artistically-inclined freelancers. Talk to the KSK at the same time as choosing a health insurance policy to find out if you might be eligible.

The German private healthcare system

Only some people in Germany can exchange their statutory healthcare policy for a private Krankenversicherung (PKV or private policy), although people do have the right to top up their state coverage with private extras if they want to. For instance, it’s fairly normal for people to add additional private insurance for more thorough dental care.

(Video) How German Health Care Works: Self-Governance and the Ambulatory Care in Germany (English version)

You can choose private healthcare instead of GKV if you earn over a certain amount (€57,600 in 2017), or if you’re self-employed or a civil servant. Students can opt for this system too at special rates. The amount you pay varies depending on your age and state of health as well as what options you want.

Self-employed people have to pay their full health insurance bill themselves, with no government help unless they’re eligible for the KSK (see above). Cheaper private policies are often appealing to freelancers because they can work out as costing less than 15% of their earnings. At the other end of the scale, high earners may prefer to go private to take advantage of benefits not available on the state system.

Signing up for the healthcare system in Germany

This can take some time, so if it’s possible to get a head start before you arrive then you should try and do so.

If you’re moving to Germany from outside the EU on a residency visa, you’ll likely need to provide evidence that you have a valid health insurance policy as part of your visa application. So you should do all this well in advance of when you plan to move.

  • Firstly, work out if you have to have statutory insurance or if private is an option. If you’re self-employed and work in an artistic field, don’t forget to consider the KSK.
  • Use a comparison website or speak to a specialist to choose between the available options. This website has great information on the similar-but-different GSK providers, and PKV comparison sites include PKV-Gesundheit, Krankenkassen Deutschland and Check24.
  • Choose a provider and talk things through with them - there will be some forms to fill out.
  • You should receive a health card in the post once you’re fully signed up.
  • When your details are in order, get yourself to a local practice and register with a Hausarzt (local doctor).

In case of an emergency in Germany

Emergency services are what get you to the hospital, and if you need to ring up a phone number, you’ll want to dial 112. When you reach the operator on the other end, it’s possible simply to receive advice over the phone or to call an ambulance if necessary. If for some reason you end up in an emergency and you’re not insured, you can still access emergency services. You just might be stuck with a bill at the end - and, if you should have had German insurance, you might have to pay back payments too.

EU citizens travelling in Germany - rather than moving there - are eligible for a certain amount of healthcare via their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), so if you’ve got one, make sure to carry it with you. If you’re travelling to Germany from outside the EU, check what your health insurance policy provides and make sure you have some provision for international coverage before going.

(Video) The Healthcare System in Germany: 8 Things I DIDN'T know 🏥

In emergencies, you’ll likely be able to access the treatment you need fairly quickly. If you’d prefer something a bit more local than calling 112, you can still usually find a direct number to a local emergency doctor in your local newspaper. Waiting times are generally good for emergency care.

Hospitals in Germany

Private doctors and hospitals do exist in Germany, but you’ll need private health insurance to access these. If you only have public insurance, there are still plenty of public facilities around. You’ll just want to check beforehand that the hospital you’re headed towards isn’t a private hospital if you only have public health insurance.

Stays in a German hospital are fairly long by international standards - for example a new mother averages 6 days in the hospital compared to just 1-2 in many other countries. You’re unlikely to have a room to yourself, though, unless your insurance policy specifies as much, as many private policies do. And be prepared to bring your own pyjamas, slippers, and towels as many hospitals ask you to bring your own.

The cost of treatment itself should certainly be covered by your health insurance, but there are a few charges you might have to pay nonetheless - a small daily fee for hospital stays, for instance, and a minor portion of the cost of medication.

Doctors and specialists in Germany

English is quite widely spoken in Germany generally, so you may well find that your doctor can talk to you a little bit in English. But, if possible, bring along a German speaker or at least dictionary.

If you do need to visit a doctor, you can make an appointment in person or by phone without giving many details of the problem. It’s also possible simply to turn up and wait - though you may be there for a while. Office hours are often quite particular and practices may be closed for a couple of hours at lunchtime, so it’s certainly better to call and arrange something if you can.

(Video) How Health Insurance in Germany works: Beginners Guide

Finding a GP / family doctor in Germany

You’ll need to go and register at the Hausarzt (GP / family doctor)** as soon as your insurance is sorted out. This resource is the official way to find a doctors near you, and Med-Kolleg is another helpful site - in English.

You shouldn’t have to wait for much more than a day to get an appointment, and if it’s an emergency, you can specify that you need something as soon as possible. Just keep an eye out for opening hours as they may open a bit early in order to close down the office for lunch.

Specialists in Germany

If you come to your Hausarzt with a particular problem, they may refer you to a specialist. You’re also able to sign up with some specialists directly, if you want. A lot of people use the system for regular checkups with, for instance, gynaecologists or dermatologists - these are generally covered by insurance plans.

Health insurance in Germany: Costs and plans

Most people are on a statutory insurance policy, meaning they pay half and their employer pays the other half. Certain people are allowed to go private, which, depending on what you opt for, might work out as cheaper or more expensive. But there are checks in place to ensure that nobody ever has to go broke because of healthcare: if you’re on benefits or unemployed, or even if you’re earning a very low amount, then the government has schemes that can help you out.

The German government insists on at least a minimal level of healthcare coverage from all policies, public or private. Hospital fees, outpatient treatment, drugs and basic dental care all have to be covered, and so do costs associated with pregnancy. While there still may be small fees that you have to pay, it’s a sturdy system that makes sure that if you’re insured, healthcare is always affordable.

With private coverage - which you can get in addition to your statutory plan if you want - extra options are available such as individual rooms in hospitals and access to private facilities. This comes at a cost, of course, and that cost will also depend on your state of health. The system works like insurance policies do anywhere: you pay a monthly premium and may have to pay excesses (deductibles) on top of this. For instance, you might have to pay the first €600 of coverage per year out of your own pocket.

(Video) German healthcare system: Gesetzlich vs Privat

Temporary health insurance for tourists

Always make sure you have insurance before travelling abroad. Check if you’re covered by your health insurance policy in your own country, and to what extent. If you’re from the EU, you’ll need to remember that the EHIC doesn’t include repatriation costs, so if you fall ill in Germany your travel back to your home country won’t be covered.

There are many options for both travel insurance and specific international medical insurance. A comparison website such as Comparethemarket or MoneySupermarket might be a good place to start.

Useful medical phrases in Germany

Medical term German translation
accident Missgeschick
ambulance Krankenwagen / Notarztwagen
broken bone Gebrochener Knochen
dentist Zahnarzt
doctor Arzt
emergency Notfall
heart attack Herzanfall
hospital Krankenhaus
medical bill Arztrechnung
medical insurance Krankenversicherung
pharmacy Apotheke
prescription Rezept
stroke Schlanganfall

Useful links

  • Toytown Germany is a very active forum for expats in Germany and a great resource for health insurance queries if you find yourself a bit stuck.
  • If you’re still overwhelmed at the thought of finding a doctor near you, try the official KBV website .

It’s true that the German healthcare system is a complicated one. But the good news is that it’s also very thorough, and provides a level of care that means that if you do fall ill, medical bills shouldn’t cost you the earth.


How does Krankenkasse work in Germany? ›

Should you fall ill while in Germany, your employer will normally pay six weeks' full salary, after which the government scheme health fund (Krankenkasse) pays up to 70% of your gross income if you are a member of the GKV, (up to a maximum of approximately 3,386 Euros per month) as statutory sick pay (Krankengeld) for ...

Why is Germany's healthcare system so good? ›

The German public health care system is based on the principle of solidarity. All people insured by a public health insurer receive the same medical care regardless of their financial status. This is achieved through an income-based common fund where everyone contributes to.

How effective is Germany's healthcare system? ›

Germany's health care system is often regarded as one of the best health care systems in the world, offering its population universal health insurance coverage and a comprehensive benefits basket with comparably low cost-sharing requirements.

How do I get a S1 form in Germany? ›

You need the S1 form to register in your country of residence. You can apply for the form at your health insurance company in Germany.

Which is better AOK or TK? ›

If you're particularly worried about skin cancer, AOK or TK are good choices: while most insurers do free skin cancer screenings every year starting at age 35, AOK fully covers them from age 14. TK, meanwhile, covers them every two years from age 20.

Is AOK private or public insurance? ›

AOK is a public/statutory health insurance provider in Germany. With the long-standing history of more than 130 years and its reliable service, AOK is one of the most popular health insurance choices for international students.

Are German citizens happy with their healthcare? ›

Most Patients Happy With German Health Care German health benefits are very generous, and there's usually little or no wait to get elective surgery or diagnostic tests, such as MRIs. It's one of the best health care systems in the world. It's visible in little ways that most Germans take for granted.

Who has the best healthcare system in the world? ›

According to this index, the ten countries with the best health care are:
  • Denmark.
  • Austria.
  • Japan.
  • Australia.
  • France.
  • Spain.
  • Belgium.
  • United Kingdom.

Is Germany Healthcare better than us? ›

The benefits of the German healthcare system are decreased number of prescription dependencies, does not have a 100% socialized single-payer system that most Americans fear, reasonable cost for hospitals and prescription drug co-pays, ability to purchase private insurance, no penalty for switching from public to ...

Who has the best healthcare system in Europe? ›

Best Ranking Healthcare Systems In Europe
  • France. France ranks at number 14 on the list of top 20 health systems in the world, and it's no wonder. ...
  • Sweden. Sweden scores very highly in the quality of lift rankings, and their life expectancy is very high. ...
  • Netherlands. ...
  • Norway. ...
  • Germany. ...
  • Switzerland. ...
  • Luxembourg.

Why is healthcare in Germany free? ›

The majority of German citizens and residents are enrolled under the state-run public health insurance scheme, which is funded by taxpayers' own national contributions. In turn, everyone has access to high-quality and affordable healthcare, regardless of income or status.

Is German healthcare slow? ›

While German healthcare is generally regarded as being of good quality, the system can be slow, particularly if you have public health insurance. Don't be surprised if you have to wait weeks or more for an appointment with a Facharzt (specialist), especially in big cities.

Is A1 German required for visa? ›

Visa applicants are required to present evidence of basic knowledge of the German language (A1 certificate not older than 12 months) in the event of family reunion of spouses.

What level of German is required for permanent residency? ›

Documents needed to apply for Permanent Residence Permit

Proof of current and paid health insurance (at least 60 months of social security contributions) Valid Passport. Recognized certificate of knowledge of the German language; at least B1 level German.

Who is eligible for an S1? ›

You'll only be issued with an S1 in Switzerland if you're a UK national, a Swiss national, an EU citizen, a refugee or a stateless person, or if you're the family member or survivor of someone who has one of these nationalities or statuses.

How much is TK monthly? ›

TK costs are determined by your monthly income. Generally, you can expect to pay 15.3% of your gross monthly income. For instance, if you make 2000 euros per month than you can expect to pay 306 euros each month for TK.

How much does AOK cost per month? ›

You pay 14.6 percent for your health insurance. In addition, there is an additional contribution from your health insurance company, depending on which AOK you are insured. On average, the additional contribution is 1.3 percent. In 2022, the price for AOK health insurance will be 15.9 percent of gross income.

Are glasses covered by TK? ›

The cost of glasses/lenses will be covered by TK when prescribed by a doctor, with a fixed amount between 10€ and 113€ per glass. Free Family Insurance. When insured with TK, you can also include your family members (immediate dependants) with no additional charges.

Does AOK cover medicines? ›

Just present your AOK health card and the AOK will take care of the largest part of the costs for the medication prescribed by the doctor. You only have to pay a surcharge that is specified by law. The surcharge is paid directly at the chemist's.

What happens if you don't pay health insurance in Germany? ›

If you've been without health coverage the whole time, then your Krankenkasse (public health fund) will then charge you roughly 50% of what you should have paid for that period. For example, if you have been uninsured for six months and your new health policy is €450 per month then you will owe about €1350 in total.

How much do you pay for AOK? ›

Applicable for AOK-insured employees also in 2021, is an unchanged general contribution rate of 14.6 percent, plus a small, health insurance company individually based additional contribution. In the case of the employees, the gross pay is used to calculate the contribution.

Who pays for German healthcare? ›

Insurance systems

Germany has a universal system with two main types of health insurance. Germans are offered three mandatory health benefits, which are co-financed by employer and employee: health insurance, accident insurance, and long-term care insurance.

Do unemployed Germans get healthcare? ›

Freelance artists and journalists, students, unemployed and retired people can have statutory health insurance too. Spouses and children are also insured at no additional cost, as long as they don't earn any money, or earn too little.

What health issues do Germans have? ›

In addition to the high mortality burden caused by cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer, musculoskeletal problems (including low back and neck pain), dementias and mental health problems (including depression), are some of the leading contributors to disability-adjusted life years2 (DALYs) lost in Germany (IHME, 2.

Which country has best doctors? ›

1. United States: On our list of the top ten nations with the best doctors in the world, the United States earns the top spot.

Who is the best doctor in the world? ›


Shiong is known as the best doctor in the world and also one of the richest doctors in the world. He is a South African-American transplant surgeon, billionaire businessman, bioscientist, and media owner.

Which country has the best free healthcare? ›

1. Sweden. Sweden stands atop on the list of free healthcare countries. The Swedish health care system is distinguished by high standards of quality care and above-average healthcare spending.

Is German healthcare better than UK? ›

Germany's spending on health care is relatively high, just over 11% of its wealth, compared to 9.8% in the UK and it has more doctors and hospital beds per patient than the UK. Georg's operation was carried out in an 80-bed hospital in one of the Black Forest towns in the south-west region Baden Wurttemberg.

What country is number 1 in healthcare? ›

Best Countries Overall Rank: 1

Learn more about Switzerland.

What is the best country to live in Europe? ›

  • Sweden. #1 in Quality of Life. #5 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Denmark. #2 in Quality of Life. #10 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Canada. #3 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Switzerland. #4 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Norway. #5 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Finland. #6 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Germany. #7 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Netherlands. #8 in Quality of Life.

Which European country has the best free healthcare? ›

Luxembourg has one of the best state-funded healthcare systems in Europe, providing all citizens with basic medical coverage and giving them the option to choose their doctor, specialist, and hospital.

Which country has the best healthcare system 2022? ›

The Top 10 Healthcare Systems in the World 2022
  • South Korea. South Korea tops the list of best healthcare systems in the world. ...
  • Taiwan. Taiwan is second in the best healthcare systems in the world. ...
  • Denmark. ...
  • Austria. ...
  • Japan. ...
  • Australia. ...
  • France. ...
  • Spain.
21 Jul 2022

How much does it cost to see a doctor in Germany without insurance? ›

What if I don't have health insurance in Germany? If you're visiting Germany and don't have health insurance in the country, you can still see a doctor. You will, however, have to find a private doctor and be responsible for the cost of the visit — a GP consultation without medical insurance costs from €30 to €60.

What are the top 3 causes of death in Germany? ›

1.Coronary Heart Disease56.09
2.Lung Cancers24.77
3.Breast Cancer18.80
21 more rows

What country has the fastest healthcare? ›

Now in its 15th year, the institute's Prosperity Index ranks countries in regard to prosperity and development based on 12 sub-indexes, or 'pillars', one of which is health.
best healthcare in the world: complete rankings.
3South Korea84.1
46 more rows
25 Sept 2022

What is A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2 German? ›

The European Framework of Reference for Languages divides language ability into six levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2). Level A1 is the beginner level, B1 and B2 are roughly intermediate level, C1 and C2 represent a good to perfect language mastery, which comes very close to a native speaker, especially in C2.

Is B1 German fluent? ›

The B Levels: Conversational

B1 German speakers have no problem understanding the main points of a conversation when clear standard German is used, especially when the topic is something familiar like school or work.

Which German exam is the easiest? ›

Of the three different levels DSH-1, DSH-2 and DSH-3, the former is the easiest. When the DSH-2 level is reached (67%), the graduate can enrol in many different courses of study, as this means that he or she is admitted to almost all German universities.

How long do you need to live in Germany to become a citizen? ›

To be eligible for naturalization, a person has to have lived legally in Germany for at least eight years and possess the appropriate residence permit. Foreigners who have successfully completed an integration course are eligible for naturalization after seven years.

How can I get German citizenship in 3 years? ›

Can I apply for German citizenship? Provided certain other conditions are met you have the right to naturalization after you have been legally resident in the Federal Republic of Germany for three years. However you have to have been married for at least two years.

Does Germany accept dual citizenship? ›

The German rules on citizenship are based on the principle of avoiding dual citizenship. This means that a German citizen who voluntarily applies for and accepts a foreign nationality on principle loses the German nationality automatically.

How long is the S1 form valid? ›

If you're a student, it's valid until the end of your study period abroad. If you're a frontier worker, it's typically valid for two years. Currently, standard EHICs for UK residents and S1 pensioners last five years.

How long does it take to get S1 form? ›

You must register your S1 with your local CPAM office. There's information about how to register online. Once registered, you'll get a temporary social security number by post after 1 to 3 months. You'll then receive a document called an 'attestation de droits à l'assurance maladie'.

How does student health insurance work in Germany? ›

The law in Germany requires everyone to have health insurance, including international students. While students enrolled in degree programmes are eligible to take public health insurance, students in preparatory or language courses and students over the age of 30 are required to get private health insurance plans.

What is covered by AOK insurance? ›

Under its slogan meaning 'the health insurance provider', AOK is one of the providers of statutory health insurance. They pay out for treatment by doctors and dentists, drugs, therapy (massages, physiotherapy, etc.) and assistive equipment (wheelchairs, walking aids, etc.), hospital treatment and sickness allowance.

How does free healthcare work in Germany? ›

Yes, all Germans and legal residents of Germany are entitled to free “medically necessary” public healthcare, which is funded by social security contributions. However, citizens must still have either state or private health insurance, covering at least hospital and outpatient medical treatment and pregnancy.

How is health care paid for in Germany? ›

The majority of German citizens and residents are enrolled under the state-run public health insurance scheme, which is funded by taxpayers' own national contributions. In turn, everyone has access to high-quality and affordable healthcare, regardless of income or status.

What happens if I don't pay health insurance in Germany? ›

If you fall behind on your monthly premiums, the insurance companies can no longer cancel your contract. You remain insured (albeit for emergencies only)) according to the German statistical office, there are still well over Protected content in Germany roaming around without health insurance…

Is German health insurance expensive? ›

It's cheap when you are young

If you are young and healthy, you could pay just 175€ per month for private insurance (350€ if you are self-employed). Public health insurance can cost up to 470€ per month for employees (900€ if you are self-employed).

Do foreigners get free healthcare in Germany? ›

All foreigners living and working in Germany can access subsidized state healthcare, but it is mandatory for all residents to have some form of health insurance.

What Cannot be covered by insurance? ›

Health insurance typically covers most doctor and hospital visits, prescription drugs, wellness care, and medical devices. Most health insurance will not cover elective or cosmetic procedures, beauty treatments, off-label drug use, or brand-new technologies.

Are Germans happy with healthcare? ›

Most Patients Happy With German Health Care German health benefits are very generous, and there's usually little or no wait to get elective surgery or diagnostic tests, such as MRIs. It's one of the best health care systems in the world. It's visible in little ways that most Germans take for granted.

Who has best healthcare in the world? ›

Countries with the best healthcare systems in the world in 2022
  • Countries with the best healthcare systems in the world in 2022. The following 10 countries have been seen as providing the best healthcare for their population. ...
  • Singapore. ...
  • Australia. ...
  • Switzerland. ...
  • The Netherlands.
15 Jun 2022

Which country has the best healthcare system? ›

Learn more about how countries are assessed in the Best Countries methodology.
  • No. 8: Netherlands. ...
  • No. 7: United Kingdom. ...
  • No. 6: Switzerland. ...
  • No. 5: Canada. ...
  • No. 4: Norway. Quality of Life Rank: 5. ...
  • No. 3: Sweden. Quality of Life Rank: 1. ...
  • No. 2: Germany. Quality of Life Rank: 7. ...
  • No. 1: Denmark. Quality of Life Rank: 2.
27 Sept 2022

What is Germany's healthcare system like? ›

According to The Commonwealth Fund, Germany has universal health coverage provided by two systems, which are known as the Statutory Health Insurance (SHI) and the private health insurance (PHI).


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