Public versus Private insurance

Today health insurance operates under a dual public-private system, i.e. two different health insurance regimes exist in Germany, namely private health insurance and public health insurance.

General health needs, including basic dental care, are covered by mandatory health insurance. Private insurance providers cover for more specialized medical treatments.

While your spouse or children may also be covered by public health insurance, private health insurance usually only covers the applicant. We summarized the general differences between public mandatory and private insurance in the following table:



Mandatory health insurance for international students

Just as in the GKV (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung = mandatory health insurance), the outpatient medical treatments, dental care, and medications, remedies and aids must be part of the health insurance for foreigners. Furthermore, the health insurance must include inpatient treatment and stays, medically necessary rehabilitation and all benefits for pregnant women, including childbirth.

Foreign students studying in Germany are also required to take out health insurance. Already at the enrollment, you have to present proof of health insurance. During their stay in Germany, the foreign students are looked after by the GKV who also issues proof of enrollment. The private health insurance can be completed individually but must include at least the primary care of the GKV and the patient transport to the home country or transport in the event of death.


Based on German healthcare legislation, if you live long-term or work in Germany, you must register with the German authorities at your local town hall (Einwohnermeldeamt = Residents' Registration Office). Once you are registered, have a social insurance number (Sozialversicherungsnummer = national insurance number) and you’re making national insurance contributions, you are entitled to state-run healthcare the same as German nationals.

The admission of foreigners into mandatory health insurance is almost always compulsory if foreigners are permanently employed in Germany. Any EU-foreigner who has no work in Germany can only register mandatory health insurance if he was formally already a member of a mandatory health insurance in his home country.

Health insurance card

A health insurance card (Krankenversichertenkarte) will be issued to you by your insurance provider and must be taken up with you each moment you go to any German physician, dentist, or expert. Since 2014, an electronic eHealth card with a picture of the owner (from 15 years old) has been evidence of the warrant to medical services and benefits. The card, including your name, birth date, address, and health insurance information, is scanned whenever you visit a medical service. Don’t forget to inform your health insurance provider of your address, so that they can send you the health insurance card via post.


Doctors in Germany

Doctors are called “Ärzte” in German language. A “Hausarzt” is a general practitioner or primary care doctor. You can choose your own doctor according to the German healthcare system. At least several of them can speak basic English. Certain physicians serve only patients with private health insurance, therefore you should inspect in advance whether you, as a public insured person, have to pay for therapy.

Hospitals in Germany

Hospitals are called Krankenhäuser in German language. There are three main types:

  • public hospitals (Öffentliche Krankenhäuser) which are run by the local and regional authorities;
  • voluntary, non-profit hospitals (Freigemeinnützige Krankenhäuser) run by churches or organizations run by the German Red Cross;
  • private hospitals (Privatkrankenhäuser).

Don’t forget to take your health insurance card before going to see doctors.



Pharmacies in Germany

Pharmacies are called Apotheke in German language. Their opening hours are usually from 9 am – 6 pm from Monday to Friday and 9 am –12 pm on Saturdays. All of them provide healthcare addresses outside the opening hours. But your health insurance may, in the most cases, not cover your bills of pharmacies. EDUBAO suggest you ask your health insurance first how far your health insurance would medically cover you.