Germany at a Glance
Health Care in Germany
Germany’s healthcare services and social security scheme have a good reputation. However, paying your contributions may be quite pricey, based on your line of work and annual income. Healthcare in Germany is divided into two sectors, the gesetzliche Krankenversicherung (public health insurance) and the private Krankenversicherung (private medical care).
All Germans and legal residents of Germany are entitled to healthcare. In fact it has become illegal not to be insured, and having some sort of medical insurance is thus a requirement when applying for a job.
Below you will find a short introduction to the German healthcare system. For more information, including women's and travel health, please consult our section on Health and Insurance in Germany. In addition to the public healthcare system, you might also be interested in Social Security and Taxation.
Public Health Insurance
All salaried workers in Germany whose gross monthly income is less than 4,575 € are publicly insured. The percentage they owe to the state-run healthcare system is taken out of their monthly pay. In 2011, this percentage was raised to 15.5% of the employee’s monthly salary. However, 7.3% is paid by the employer.
Applying for public health insurance is relatively stress free, as you simply need to call up a regional office, set up an appointment, bring you passport and your residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis). Usually, your German employer’s HR office will take care of this for you.
Private Health Insurance
Private health insurance is quite a bit more expensive than public healthcare. Those earning more than 4,575 € per month (or 54,900 € per year) can opt for private health insurance. The application process for this is a bit more complicated. You may be subjected to medical tests, required to answer a questionnaire concerning your medical history, and submit proof of your income.
Unlike public healthcare, you have to go through the selection and application process without your employer’s help. The benefits of private health insurance mostly do not lie in the quality of medical standards, but in the speed of care. In other words, you will not be left waiting for hours but will be attended to quickly, and some doctors only take patients with private insurance.
Dental work in Germany can be quite expensive, and you often need to present a cost estimate to your insurance prior to getting the treatment. Also, it is not always guaranteed that your insurance company deems the work necessary, as they strictly differentiate between cosmetic work and medical treatment.
The percentage that your insurance, be it private or public, will pay depends on the coverage you have selected. Some dental work is included in standard medical insurance, however it varies greatly depending on the procedure and the individual. Quite a few Germans take out additional insurance cover for dental treatment with a private health insurance company. This kind of top-up insurance option is called Zahnzusatzversicherung or Zahnschutz-Zusatzversicherung.
Unlike some other countries, you can only pick up medication at pharmacies (Apotheke), of which there are thousands in most cities. Prescription and non-prescription drugs may be obtained at pharmacies (Apotheken, marked by a large red "A") anywhere.
Medication can be expensive, depending on the coverage you have from your insurance. However, patients enrolled in the public health insurance scheme do not have to pay the full price for prescription medicine, but only 10% of the costs. Usually, this sum amounts to five or ten euros for most prescription drugs.
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