An overview of German healthcare for our students
Germany’s handling of the coronavirus has put its healthcare system into focus. Incoming international students may be wondering how it all works.
By law, everyone residing in Germany – including university students – must have health insurance. For non-EU international students, obtaining health insurance is a vital step in the visa process as well. It may appear a bit complicated, but the Hertie School’s Student Life team are here to support our students. We’ve also compiled an overview here:
You will have to pay a monthly premium for German health insurance, but this means you won’t be billed for most essential medical treatments. Even the cheapest insurance plans will cover most doctor’s visits or medical emergencies at no or very minimal additional costs. Public health insurance for students usually costs about 110 euros a month. The fee for private health insurance may be as low as around 33 euros, but your choice of coverage options and other factors may increase the price. Of course, prices may differ a little depending on the insurance company.
In Germany, people are insured through the public health system or through a private insurance company. Most people in Germany have public health insurance. As an international student under 30 you may choose to be publicly or privately insured. The public system is administered by a number of statutory health funds, kind of like insurance companies, called Krankenkassen.
If you’re an international student under 30, you might consider signing up for public health insurance (there is a discounted rate for students), especially if you plan on staying in Germany past your studies. Switching from private to public later can be complicated and expensive. If you’re an international student over 30, however, you cannot sign up for public health insurance, so you must obtain private coverage.
Wondering what your options are? Send an e-mail to studentlife[at]hertie-school[dot]org to reach our Student Life team, who can provide you with a list of Krankenkassen and suggestions.
Perhaps as an international student, you have insurance in your home country that's also recognised in Germany. In such cases, you can choose to apply for an exemption from the public health insurance system, which you would then submit to our Student Life team to complete your enrolment at the Hertie School. Non-EU international students can provide a written statement from their healthcare provider, and EU students must obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in their home country before moving to Germany.
All students will have to provide proof to th Hertie School that they are sufficiently insured. Incoming students can find more on this on Moodle or by contacting studentlife[at]hertie-school[dot]org.
In Germany, you are free to visit the doctor (Allgemeinmediziner) of your choice (or other basic practitioner like a dentist or gynaecologist), who, if necessary, can refer you to a specialist. English-speaking doctors are widely available in Berlin, and some health insurance companies can also provide a list. Your peers and co-workers may also be able to offer recommendations. You should schedule an appointment prior to visiting a doctor, but you can also try and see one without (expect longer waiting times, though). Patient visiting hours (Sprechstunden) are usually on the doctor’s website.
Depending on what kind of insurance you have, the billing process may differ. When you visit the doctor’s office, the receptionist will ask for your insurance card. If you’re publicly insured, the practitioner will bill your Krankenkasse directly, and you won’t have to pay or do anything else. If you’re privately insured, you’ll pay up front or receive a bill in the mail, and then you’ll have to apply for reimbursement from your insurer. It’s important to know which services are included in your coverage plan, so make sure to double check with your provider before undergoing any special treatments that might not be covered!
You can get medication at an Apotheke – a pharmacy – in Germany. In Berlin, these are on nearly every street corner, identifiable by their red “A” symbol. They can differ from drugstores in other countries, though. Over-the-counter medications commonly found on the drugstore shelf in some countries may only be obtained by asking the pharmacist behind the counter (like paracetamol or ibuprofen). Yet other over-the-counter medications in your country may require a doctor’s prescription in Germany. If your doctor prescribes medication covered by your public health insurance, you won’t need to pay anything when you pick it up at the pharmacy except for perhaps a small fee (Rezeptgebühr). With private insurance, you pay upfront at the pharmacy and apply for a reimbursement from your insurance provider afterwards.
Have more questions? We’re here to help.
Overall, German healthcare is quite affordable. If you’re properly insured, you’ll have very few additional costs for treatment and medication, and you won’t be turned away in an emergency. Even ambulance rides and hospital stays are covered.
It might initially be overwhelming to understand all of the options and to make a decision on what’s best for you during your studies in Germany. For Hertie School students, your point of contact regarding health insurance is our Student Life team, who are here to assist you with any questions you might have about your coverage.
Admitted and incoming students: For questions about getting health insurance in Germany, please contact studentlife[at]hertie-school[dot]org.