How to see a doctor in Germany

9 Facts

finding a health insurance in Germany

First of all: I hope you are reading this article out of curiousity.

And not because you are actually ill!

If you are ill, then let me say: Gute Besserung! :)

That’s what the German say for, ‘Hope you get better!’

So let me talk a little bit about what it is like to see a doctor in Germany.

And what to do when you are sick in Germany.

How to make a doctor’s appointment.

And, most interestingly, how to find English-speaking doctors in Germany.

#1 How do I find a GP (general doctor) in Germany?

In the German health care system there is a variety of doctors. On this platform you can search for a doctor close to you.

When you have moved to Germany you should get a general practitioner / doctor (Allgemeinarzt).

If you don’t speak German, no worries. There should be many general practitioners that speak English. Just google “Allgemeinarzt Englisch + your city”.

This general practitioner will be your first point of contact if you are ill. It is very important that you report to the doctor when you feel ill. Especially, if this means you cannot go to work. In this case, the doctor confirms your illness. You will get a ‘Krankheitsbescheinigung’ (illness confirmation).

You must send this confirmation to your employer. Some employers want such a confirmation from day one of your illness. Other employers in Germany only want you to submit a confirmation from the third day of illness.

Ultimately, better check what your employer wants.

In any case, it’s important to call in sick when you cannot go to work. Do not send an email or a text message, but make a personal call. Better be on the safe side ;)

…and do I need a referral for seeing a specialist in Germany?

So whenever you are sick in Germany, the first thing you do is go to a Allgemeinarzt (general practitioner). He checks what is wrong.

If it is something severe or he cannot help you, he will refer you to a specialist. For this you will get a Überweisung (referral).

Without this document, you cannot go see a specialist. You must normally get a referral to a specialist by your GP! 

Women in Germany usually go to a gynaecologist twice a year for regular check-ups. The contraception pill is usually not covered by your health insurance if you are over 18 years old. One package for about 3 months costs usually around 20-30 Euros.

Further, if you are member of a public health insurance in Germany, you are expected that you go see a dentist at least once a year…

Otherwise the insurance may not cover the expenses of a visit at the dentist!!

So make sure to go there regularly…

Yes, I know it is not pleasant. But it will literally pay off!! :)

#2 What is a ‘Gesundheitskarte’ and how to get it?

The Gesundheitskarte is your German health insurance card. It is a document confirming that you have health insurance.

Your personal data and health information are stored on this card.

You must always carry your Gesundheitskarte with you. If you go to hospital or see a doctor in Germany they will always ask for your German health insurance card.

You get a health insurance card from your health insurance provider.

If you live in Germany, you must have health insurance. About 85% of Germans have public health insurance. The rest is privately insured.

#3 Do I still get paid in Germany, if I fall sick for a couple of weeks?

If you are member of German public health insurance, your employer will normally pay six weeks’ full salary if you are ill.

In order to get ‘sick pay’ you must have confirmation of your doctor that you are ill (Krankenbescheinigung). It is also very important that you stay in touch with your employer while you are sick.

You should inform him of how long you might be away for, so the employer can find a temporary replacement, if necessary.

Indeed, it is common courtesy in Germany to call your employer, if you are ill. Do not simply send a text or email. You can send the doctor’s illness confirmation by letter, fax. Or bring it into the office once you are back.

After six weeks of illness you can get sick pay. Then the government scheme pays a percentage of your income as Krankengeld (‘public sick pay’) for up to a maximum of 78 weeks.

As you can see, you’re well taken care of :).

You are self-employed? Then things are different. And you only get sick pay if you have a private sick-pay health insurance…

#4 How to find English-speaking doctors?

Generally, you can find English-speaking doctors and specialists in most parts of Germany nowadays. To search for them you can of course use Google, or ask in expats groups on Facebook (see our online community).

Alternatively, if you are member of AOK public health insurance in Germany, you can ring up their service hotline 0800 265 5000. TK also offers English service. These are two of the biggest insurance providers in Germany.

At AOK they even speak 17 languages and can assist you with any question you may have.

You can call them around the clock i.e. 24/7.  And tell them what kind of a doctor you need to see.

Another option: An employee will search for an English-speaking doctor and even make the appointment on behalf of you. Easy, isn’t it?

If you live in Berlin, there is a great website called http://doctorberlin.de/ Here you can look out for doctors in Berlin that speak English, French, Arabic and more languages!

health insurance doctor

#5 Do I need to make an appointment to see a doctor?

Generally, yes, you do. Especially for specialists, you must make an appointment.

It is normal to wait a couple of weeks to see a specialist, sometimes even a few months. So be sure to make appointments as early as possible.

In case of an emergency or if you need a ‘sick leave’ – a verification for your employer that you’re ill – you don’t need an appointment.

First of all, there are always visiting hours where you can come in without an appointment at your general practitioner’s (Allgemeinarzt).

Just ring the reception up and ask whether you can come around on the same day.

As such, you better call first thing in the morning and go there as early as possible.

Otherwise, you might well have to wait a few hours before you get to see your doctor in Germany…

#6 Will my German private health insurance cover my visit at the doctor’s?!

If you’re privately insured, it works as follows. When you go see a doctor you will get an invoice for the treatment. When? Usually, this happens a few days or weeks after the treatment. You must first pay this bill yourself though!

Be sure to make a copy of the bill for your own record. Send the bill to your private health insurance provider.The provider should reimburse you after one to three weeks. Exactly how long depends on what kind of health insurance agreement you have. Some agreements cover 100%, some less. Again, check your contract!

What about medicine and prescriptions in Germany? Who pays for it?

If your doctor in Germany prescribes your medicine, then you take the prescription to the pharmacy. Tell the pharmacy that you need a copy of the prescription and a stamp for your private health insurance. You pay for the medicine yourself in the first instance.

Then send the copy of the prescription and the payment receipt to your health provider.

Again, you should receive the reimbursement directly on your German bank account within a few weeks. In case you don’t have one yet, open a German bank account online.

#7 I have public health insurance in Germany. Do I need to pay for medicine and treatments?

You are a member of a public health insurance? Such as TK or AOK? Then everything is quite easy.

Once you are insured, you will get a so-called Gesundheitskarte (German health card). You must always carry this card with you.

When you go see a doctor, you first go to the reception. There you give the receptionist your German health card.

If you have public health insurance in Germany most treatments and medicine are covered.

However, you should talk with your health insurance to check the details. Some homeopathic and dental treatments are not included.

Crucially, if you inform yourself in detail about what your health insurance covers, you may be surprised!

If you have back pain you get prescribed free massages. How cool is that?!

…and can I get dental care, vaccinations & gym benefits from my German health insurance?

Exciting news: If you go to the gym regularly, your health insurance provider may sponsor your gym membership.

Here you can get public health insurance membership. Ask your English-speaking representative for more details.

If you go see a dentist be aware that only the ‘basic’ treatments are usually covered. Before you get new teeth or have a major surgery at the dentist, check with your public health insurance!

So, how to do this the best way? Let me explain.

Firstly, ask the doctor for a proposal of how much the treatment will cost (Kostenvoranschlag). Send a copy of this to your insurance company. This is the safest way. They will send you a letter with the details of how much they will cover.

What about vaccinations? Are they covered by German health insurance?

Most vaccinations are covered by public health insurances in Germany. Even travel vaccinations and malaria tablets are often paid for.

So, make sure to check with your insurance before you get vaccined, though. Indeed, some vaccinations are even obligatory in Germany!

Consequently, it is best to ask your general practitioner for more information. And make sure to bring your vaccination booklet, if you have one.

Want to add something? We do our best to keep this article up-to-date. Nevertheless, if you spot anything that’s unclear or inaccurate, then please contact us.


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