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The German Health System

The German healthcare system is one of the oldest national social health insurance systems in the world. Dating back to the 1880s, it is a universal, multi-payer system. Statutory public health insurance covers the majority of residents living in Germany. This entitles you to free health care and basic dentistry. The cost of insurance premiums is paid half by the employer and half by the employee. If you earn over €60,750, you can opt out of the public scheme and instead pay for private health insurance. This may cover more complex dentistry, eyeglasses and access private hospital facilities. The German Health system is one of the very best in the world. It is very consumer-orientated, with patients able to choose any type of care they wish.  Government-regulated universal healthcare, combined with competitive market conditions, have created an optimum level of quality and efficiency.

Primary care

Primary care is delivered by GPs or family doctors (Hausarzt). You are free to choose your doctor, but check whether they accept public or private insurance. Most doctors will speak basic English, and your embassy may also have a list of doctors who speak your mother tongue. GP offices are often in multi-disciplinary health centres. These may include physiotherapists, psychotherapists and specialist nurses’ clinics. Practice hours are usually from 8 am – 6 pm, with a lunch break. You should make an appointment in advance, although some doctors operate a walk-in service. You probably won't be asked for a reason for the appointment when you call, and you may have to wait several days if it is a busy practice.  If you need to see a specialist, you will be referred by your GP to the hospital. However, it is possible to make an appointment directly with some specialists without a referral.


There are around 2,000 hospitals in the German health system, including 30 German university hospitals. Quality and standards in German hospitals are exceptionally high by international comparison, and medical procedures are performed at state-of-the-art facilities. The university hospitals, in particular offer pioneering specialist treatment. Most hospitals have emergency room departments as well as offering long-stay care. Publicly and privately insured patients are often in the same hospital, with wards being smaller in the private sections. Waiting times to see specialists or for surgery are relatively short, usually less than four weeks. Both state and private health insurance policies cover emergency services. If you need an ambulance, you can call 112 free of charge.

Additional therapies

Children under 18 are covered on your German health insurance and will be treated by specialised paediatricians. The German Healthcare system offers a free national vaccination program including chickenpox, hepatitis B, polio and the MMR. Primary dentistry is covered under public health insurance, although complex or aesthetic treatments are extra and can be expensive. Many private health insurance companies offer supplementary insurance packages for dentistry. Germany recognises the benefits of alternative and complementary medicine, and your regular insurance covers the costs. Regular doctors often use it when standard treatments are not available or are not working. Pharmacists are regularly trained in herbal medicine as well as traditional medicine, and many pain clinics offer acupuncture as standard. Alternative health providers, including chiropractors, must be licensed to practice.

German Health System – Mundialz

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