Overview of the social security system in Germany

As an employee in Germany, you will be member of five statutory social security organisations:

  • The health insurance fund to cover the costs for physician, dental care, medication, therapy and services during pregnancy and childbirth,
  • The long-term care insurance fund to pay for your expenses if you become dependent on long-term care due to illness,
  • The pension insurance fund to pay your pension when you retire,
  • The accident insurance to cover the costs of medical treatment and occupational rehabilitation in case of an accident at work or an occupational disease,
  • The unemployment insurance fund to provide you income for a certain duration if you are unemployed.

To be a member of these funds, you and your employer will pay a fixed percentage of your work income. You don’t have to do anything: this transfer is made by your employer.

Now let’s talk about health insurance

Health insurance is a special case: contrary to other insurance funds, there are several providers of health insurance (public or private, all under contract with the state). They are called Krankenkasse. Thus, you can choose between different funds the one you feel offers the best services. Some of them ask an additional contribution (at your expense). Once you have chosen your insurance fund, notify your employer so that he or she registers you with that fund. A 14.6% tax (2017 figure) will automatically be deducted on your pay slip at the end of each month.

If you earn an annual gross income of more than 57,600 euros (the 2017 minimum), you still have to be insured, but you must choose one of these two options:

  • Stay in the statutory insurance funds.
  • Opt for a private insurance funds. Think carefully before choosing a private health insurance fund since it’s not easy to change back to a statutory fund.

Note that if your spouse is not employed, he/she will be covered by your health insurance policy with no extra-cost. The same occurs for your children.

Registration

As soon as you chose your health insurance, notify your employer. After a while, you will receive a health insurance card, with your social security number. Once you received your number, give it to you employer.

Don’t forget to bring your health insurance card when visiting your physician so that it can be used for payment.

If you travel in Europe (EEA and Switzerland), ask your health insurance funds a European Health Insurance Card so that you can be covered in the same conditions and at the same cost as in the country where you are insured. Visit the website of the European Commission for more information.

Vaccination

Some vaccinations are required in Germany, and your health insurance covers theit cost. Ask your physician or the Federal Centre for Health Education for more information.

Screenings are available, sometimes mandatory (U1 and U9 screenings are required for children to help to identify and treat developmental disorders and illnesses). Statutory health insurances often offer a bonus if you are regularly screened.

Physician, medication

After you’re settled in your new city, you will have to choose your own general practitioner. He or she is your entry door to the health system, referring you to a specialist or arranging your admission to the hospital.

You can find your physician from:

  • the website of your town or city
  • the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Weisse Liste (White List)
  • Unabhängige Patientenberatung (Independent Advice for Patients)
  • the website of your state’s Kassenärztliche Vereinigung (Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, KV)
  • some startups’ apps or websites like Doctolib where you can also book a consultation

When you have found a physician, call his or her office and make an appointment; this avoids a long wait. You will not have to pull money from your pocket: your physician will send the bill directly to your health insurance.

Medications are available only in pharmacies, which display a large red sign with the letter A (for Apotheke). You can get medications thanks to a prescription of your physician (your health insurance will pay a part of the cost) or going directly to the pharmacy for over-the-counter medications (you will have to pay all the cost).

Hospital & emergencies

In any serious situation, dial 112 to call the emergency medical service. If need be, go to your hospital’s A&E (ER) department, open day and night.

After-hours, on-call doctors and pharmacies are available by calling 116 117. You can also check the web or the local newspapers to get the details of on-call practitioners.

You can encounter four different types of hospitals in Germany: public hospitals, private clinics, charitable hospitals (run by church) and university hospitals in big cities. In most cases, the costs of your hospitalisation will be covered by your health insurance (check which costs are covered before your admission). Except in case of emergency, avoid going directly to the hospital: your general physician will arrange your admission.

Check more info about social security and health on Make it in Germany.

Here you find the most important information needed to answer your questions about Recognition of official documents. If you know other tips or want to share your experience, do not hesitate to contact us. You could even send your testimony which could be published on our website! Thanks for your contribution to the Leon community!