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Healthcare in Germany for Expats

If you are thinking about moving to Germany, you’ll want to be as informed as possible about the healthcare ins and outs before you relocate.

Luckily, Germany’s healthcare sector is not too much different from the UK or rest of Europe, and their healthcare practices and standards are pretty much on par with it, however there are several subtle differences.

Expat healthcare in Germany

Below is a guide that should answer most (if not all) of the questions you may have before you make your move.

German healthcare system – insurance and fees

The German health system is considered to be one of the best health systems in the world, and is funded primarily by contributions made from the working population. If you have an employment contract in Germany, you must take out health insurance as an employee. This ensures that any illness or injury that may occur does not turn into a financial risk.

The statutory health insurance funds in Germany will cover you and your family (this includes a non-working spouse and/or children). If you have statutory medical insurance, you will need to pay a quarterly practice fee of €10 when you go to a doctor, and if you require a prescription you will be charged a fixed fee of €5 per prescription by the chemist.

Finding a doctor in Germany

You may be slightly intimidated when choosing a doctor in Germany, partially due to the language difference, but fortunately this isn’t as difficult as you may think. Firstly, there are many English-speaking doctors in Germany who are more than willing to take on English speaking patients.

The German Yellow Pages (Gelbe Seiten) has lots of listings for doctors that often specify if the doctor is able to take on those patients that only speak English. You can also check out the university clinics that provide both outpatient and hospitalisation services, as these clinics are often staffed by highly qualified doctors and nurses who are fluent in English.

Private medical practices in Germany

Private medical practices in Germany differ somewhat from the UK as far as office hours are concerned. This is because most doctors who run a private practice are usually on hospital staff as well. Private medical practice hours are usually from 8am to 1pm, and then from 3pm to 6pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

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Private medical practices also have a tendency to serve patients on a first come first served basis, and appointments rarely override this practice. General practitioners often have “open door policies”, however it is still recommended that you make an appointment to ensure that you can be seen on a specific day. Serious medical conditions will get priority over non- life threatening conditions.

Going to the dentist

Dentistry in Germany is very high quality and is comparable to the healthcare services that you would receive in the UK - in fact some consider German dental services to be the best in the world. Germany has plenty of highly qualified and experienced dentists throughout the country.

While you may run into slight language barriers, there are a fair number of dentists in Germany who speak English, and in most cases these dentists will advertise as having English speaking staff on hand. Local dentists in Germany can be easily located by checking in the local newspapers or the Yellow Pages, but you can also ask local English speaking residents about dentists that speak English in your area – they may be able to recommend one for you.

Finding a German dentist

Dental procedures can be covered by health insurance, however this can be a complicated process, so you will want to look into what your specific health coverage is able to stretch to.

Dental treatment and health insurance

In Germany there are two basic types of health insurance, state run plans, and private plans, both of which have provisions that cover some (but rarely all) of the costs involved in dental care.

Insured patients - whether under a state-run or private health plan - are often covered for routine procedures such as basic dental hygiene and simple fillings. Major dental work on the other hand such as dentures and crowns, are only partially covered by the state plans.

Private insurance plans in Germany

If you are planning on receiving, or believe that you may need major dental work, you will fare better with a private insurance plan. It is important to note that German private insurance companies often limit the amount of coverage that new policyholders can receive.

In most cases private insurance companies require an eight-month waiting period before any reimbursements for treatment can be received. They also may restrict their reimbursements to 60% to 80% of the major dental works’ total cost.

It is for this reason that you will want to get a detailed cost estimate before any of the work begins, and then submit to the estimate to the insurer for prior approval. You should be able to ask for the estimate to be given to you in English.

As with choosing any dentist, you will also want to ask for a medical risk form, medical history form, and a new patient form, to be sure that the dentist is aware of any health problems or allergies that you may have.

Regardless of what area in Germany you choose to move, you can rest assured that you will receive more than acceptable health and dental care.