The German health care system

The German health care system has the reputation of being one of the best in the world. There is an extensive network of hospitals and doctors covering even the remotest areas of Germany.

Waiting lists for treatments are rare. Medical facilities are equipped with the latest technology and the statutory health insurance scheme provides nearly full cover for most medical treatments and medicines. Almost everybody in Germany has access to this system, irrespective of income or social status.

The downside is that medical costs are high. Health care costs - for doctors, hospital stays and even medicines - are among the most expensive in the world. There is no such thing as "free" treatment in Germany, not even in state hospitals. All care, including emergencies, has to be paid for by you or your health insurance!

When coming to Germany, it is therefore extremely important to have a full health care insurance, as a serious illness could cause a financial disaster. In most cases, you will even be obliged to prove you have adequate cover. See our section on health insurance  for details, or, for more up-to-date news, check out our expat health blog at  

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Other comments

  • Moya St Leger, 22 March 2010 Reply


    For the traveller to Germany from the UK, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) should provide the visitor with medical treatment free at the point of access because it is in Britain. However, unlike in Spain few German doctors are aware of the EHIC and the British visitor will be reqrired to pay up front in Germany. Costs are high. On return to Britain, the British visitor can then apply to the NHS for repayment of the costs on production of receipts after the visit. This takes time but works.

    The level of recognition of the EHIC in countries across the EU differs greatly and is in urgent need of 'harmonization'