Expats moving to Austria can rest assured knowing that they will be moving to a country with one of the best healthcare systems in Europe.
Expats living in the country will be entitled to public healthcare as a result of contributions made through their taxes. Due to the excellent standard of public healthcare in Austria, most people do not invest in private health insurance policies.
However, those that have private health insurance as part of their employment package will have access to a greater number of services and shorter waiting times.
Public healthcare in Austria
The healthcare system in Austria provides free access to basic healthcare to all citizens and residents of Austria, as well as tourists and those staying in the country on a temporary basis. Basic healthcare in Austria includes treatment in public hospitals, medication, basic dental care and some specialist consultations. For European expatriates there are also reciprocal healthcare agreements in place with other EU-member states, and those holding a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can use it in Austria.
Public health insurance
Expats in Austria are required to pay into a health insurance scheme, which goes into a larger social security system. The system covers the contributor as well as their family for health, accident or pension insurance. The amount an individual has to pay is determined by their salary level, with health insurance, accident insurance and pension insurance all taking up a percentage of an individual's salary. Expats can apply to be covered for one, two or all of the categories.
Expats moving to Austria have to enrol in the healthcare programme by registering with a Gebietskrankenkasse or district health insurance fund within their first week of work. Employers are required to match the monthly payments made to the Gebietskrankenkasse by their employees. Private contractors are also required to register for social insurance through the Sozialversicherung der gewerblichen Witschaft (Social Insurance for the Industrial Economy).
Expats with children will be pleased to know that children are automatically covered and university students are also covered by their parents' insurance up to the age of 28 years old.
Upon registration expats will receive a green e-card, which should be carried at all times. E-cards need to be issued to each member of a family that will be using the healthcare system. An e-card contains personal information such as social security numbers and date of birth and can also be used as an ID. It also contains information about claims to doctors and dentists. Through the e-card, the Austrian government processes healthcare claims electronically, which significantly reduces queues, backlogs and bureaucracy.
Like most other state-funded healthcare systems, patients can only consult medical professionals approved by the social insurance fund; doctors who accept e-card holders will display a sign stating ‘Alle Kassen’ or ‘Kassenarzt’.
Both private and public hospitals will treat patients regardless of their insurance status, however there is a slight difference in the quality of facilities that e-card holders can expect when compared to those using private health insurance. For example, private insurance patients are generally given a single or double room while state insured patients can expect to share a ward with three to six other patients. Costs for other medical procedures vary; the government health insurance programme doesn’t fund vaccinations, but does reimburse patients for hospital stays and the majority of medical prescription fees.
Private healthcare in Austria
Private health insurance in Austria is generally used to complement the public health services supplied by the state. Private insurance tends to either cover hospital costs or daily benefits, depending on the insurance plan preferred. Private insurance allows members access to private doctors and medical professionals as well as smaller wards in state and private hospitals.
Pharmacies and medicines in Austria
Pharmacies, or Apotheke as they are known locally, are easily found in all towns and cities in Austria. Expats should be careful not to confuse them with drugstores, or drogeries, which only sell toiletries.
Laws on prescription drugs in Austria are very strict. Expats will find that many medicines that can be bought over the counter in their own country, such as antibiotics, must be prescribed by a doctor in Austria.
The majority of the costs of prescription medicines are covered by the state-health insurance programme. Expats will still need to pay a nominal fee for each drug, depending on its cost.
Those with private health insurance will need to pay for their drugs and then send the receipts to the company for reimbursement.
Pharmacies in Austria are open from 8am to 6pm from Monday to Friday and 8am to 12pm on Saturdays. There are pharmacies that are opened 24 hours a day and it's worth familiarising oneself with the nearest emergency pharmacy.
Health risks in Austria
Although there are few health risks in Austria, expats should visit a health specialist to ensure that they have the latest vaccine information.
Expats walking outdoors should be careful of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and Encephalitis. Tick bites can be avoided by using appropriate insect-repellant and wearing long trousers.
Pre-travel restrictions and vaccinations for Austria
No special vaccinations are required for expats moving to Austria. However, these routine vaccinations are recommended:
Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
Emergency services in Austria
In the event of an emergency expats can call an ambulance in Austria by dialling 112.
Individual states in Austria are responsible for the provision of emergency services. Although the standards of emergency medical services vary slightly, response times throughout the country are generally very good. Paramedics generally speak German, but some may also speak English.