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The standard of healthcare in Germany is excellent and there's a growing culture centred on healthy living.
Both public and private hospitals in Germany should meet expats' expectations. Germany is home to several leaders in medical research and pharmaceuticals, and there are numerous specialist hospitals. Berlin, in particular, is a leading health destination in Europe and is home to some of the country's largest medical centres.
By German law, all residents must have health insurance that covers both hospital and outpatient medical treatment, and proof of health insurance is mandatory when applying for a German visa. Employers will often register expats with a local German health insurance company as part of the visa application process.
Hospitals in Germany
With more than 2,000 hospitals in the country, expats will never be too far away from medical assistance. Around half of these are public hospitals, while there are two kinds of private hospitals in Germany: non-profit and for-profit facilities.
Medical facilities in both public and private clinics in Germany are first class and are known for having short waiting times. Doctors and medical staff are well trained, professional and generally speak fluent English. Most German hospitals have a number of specialists, but it's also possible to find specialists who work outside of hospitals.
Typically, expats in need of medical assistance would first visit a General Practitioner who would assess them and then refer them to a specialist if necessary.
EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access state healthcare during a short-term visit. UK citizens can make use of their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the EHIC for UK citizens post-Brexit.
Pharmacies and medicines in Germany
Pharmacies, or apotheken as they're known locally, are easy to find and can be identified by a large red 'A' on their signs.
By law, pharmacies in Germany must be owned and run by a qualified pharmacist. But each pharmacist is only allowed to own up to three pharmacies. So, unlike many other countries, expats won't find any large drugstore chains in Germany. North American expats should note that a drug store, or drogerie, in Germany sells toiletries and consumer goods but not medicines.
In German pharmacies, all medications including non-prescription drugs, are kept behind the counter. Only a selection of non-medicinal health products is available on the shelves.
Pharmacists in Germany are cautious and are likely to ask customers whether they understand the dosage on their prescriptions. They also generally speak good English and can offer advice on non-prescription medicines.
Pharmacies in Germany tend to be well stocked. If a customer needs medicine that's not in stock, it can usually be ordered for same-day pick up, or the following day at the longest.
Most pharmacies are closed in the evenings, on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and holidays. Some even close early on Wednesdays. However, every pharmacy has a list on the door with pharmacies in the local area that stay open late to handle emergencies.
Health insurance in Germany
It's compulsory for all residents in Germany to have health insurance, including expats with a residence permit for Germany or a fixed-term contract for more than a year – so new arrivals will have to sign up for some form of health insurance.
There are two types of health insurance in Germany: private health insurance through a company, or statutory health insurance provided by the state. Expats can only take advantage of statutory health insurance if they are formally employed by a company in Germany, while self-employed expats have to get a private policy.
Employers share the cost of health insurance with expats and usually pay half of the cost per month, regardless of whether the expat has chosen private or statutory health insurance.
Pre-travel restrictions and vaccinations for Germany
No special vaccinations are required for expats moving to Germany, but the following are recommended:
Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)
Emergency services in Germany
In the event of an emergency, expats can call an ambulance in Germany by dialling 115. With the exception of some smaller private hospitals, most hospitals in Germany will have an Accident and Emergency unit.
If a patient arrives at a German hospital in an emergency situation they will receive treatment even if they are unable to show proof of health insurance. However, if they aren't covered, their treatment is likely to be expensive.
Expat Interviews"Overall, Germany has a better healthcare system than the US. I pay a portion out of my pay check every month and it covers my general practitioner, dentist and specialists. There have been a few occasions where I had to pay extra, but they haven’t been as outrageously expensive as back in the States. As for hospitals, I have yet to go to one *knock on wood*, but I do know the children’s hospital in Ravensburg is certainly one of the best."
For more on Marisa's experiences as an American expat in Germany, read our interview with her.
Are you an expat living in Germany?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Germany. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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