First of all: I hope you read this article out of curiosity. And not because you are, in fact, ill!
If you are ill, then let me say: Gute Besserung! 🙂
That’s how Germans say: ‘Hope you get better soon!’ So let me talk a bit about what it is like to see a doctor and what to do when you are sick in Germany, how to make a doctor’s appointment and, most interestingly, finding 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. It would be best to get a general practitioner/doctor (Allgemeinarzt).
Suppose 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 essential that you report to the doctor when you feel sick. 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 request a doctor’s note at the beginning of your sick leave, and other employers in Germany only want you to submit proof from the third day of illness.
Ultimately, better check what your employer wants. In any case, it’s essential 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 ;)
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 an Allgemeinarzt (general practitioner). He checks what is wrong.
If it is something severe or cannot help you, he will refer you to a specialist. For this, you will get an Überweisung (referral).
Without this document, you cannot see a specialist.
You must generally get a referral to a specialist by your GP!
Women in Germany usually go to a gynecologist 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, and one package for about three months usually costs around 20-30 Euros.
Further, if you are a member of public health insurance in Germany, you are expected to see a dentist at least once a year.
Otherwise, the insurance may not cover the expenses of a visit to the dentist!
So make sure to go there regularly.
Yes, I know it is not pleasant. But it will pay off! :)
# 2 What is a ‘Gesundheitskarte’ and how to get it?
The Gesundheitskarte is your German health insurance card, and it is a document confirming that you have health insurance. Your personal information and health information are stored on this card.
It would be best if you always carried your Gesundheitskarte with you. If you go to a hospital or see a doctor in Germany, they will always ask for your German health insurance card. If you don’t have it with you, you can call your health insurance and ask them to send coverage confirmation to your doctor, but it’s frowned upon, and you’ll still need to take your cards to the doctor’s office for scanning afterward.
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, and 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 a German public health insurance member, your employer will typically pay six weeks’ full salary if you are ill. To get ‘sick pay,’ you must have confirmation from your doctor that you are ill (Krankenbescheinigung). It is also essential that you stay in touch with your employer while sick.
You should inform him of how long you might be away, 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 :).
Are you self-employed? Then things are different. And you only get sick pay if you have 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 use Google or ask in expats groups on Facebook (see our online community).
Alternatively, if you are am member of BARMER or TK, you can ring up their service hotlines. Both of these German public health insurances offer an English service, and these are two of the biggest insurance providers in Germany.
Another option: Your health insurer will search for an English-speaking doctor and even make the appointment on your behalf. 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!
# 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 and ask whether you can come around on the same day.
You better call first thing in the morning and go there as early as possible.
Otherwise, you might have to wait a few hours before seeing your doctor in Germany.
# 6 Will my German private health insurance cover my doctor’s visit?
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, however!
Be sure to make a copy of the bill for your record. Send the invoice 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 deals 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 medication and a stamp for your private health insurance. You pay for the medicine yourself in the first instance.
Then send a copy of the prescription and the payment receipt to your health provider.
Again, you should receive the reimbursement directly from your German bank account within a few weeks. If you don’t have one yet, open a German bank account online. In this blog post you will find all information you need and and the 4 best options to open a bank account in germany.
# 7 I have public health insurance in Germany. Do I need to pay for medicine and treatments?
Are you a member of public health insurance? Such as TK or BARMER? Then everything is relatively 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, giving the receptionist your German health card. Most treatments and medicine are covered if you have public health insurance in Germany.
However, it would be best to talk with your health insurance to check the details. Some homeopathic and dental treatments are not included. 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?
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.
Suppose you see a dentist be aware that only the ‘basic’ treatments are usually covered. Check with your public health insurance before getting new teeth or having major surgery at the dentist!
So, how to do this the best way? Let me explain.
Firstly, ask the doctor to propose how much the treatment will cost (Kostenvoranschlag). Send a copy of this to your insurance company. It is the safest way. They will send you a letter with how much they will cover.
What about vaccinations? Does German health insurance cover them?
Most vaccinations are covered by public health insurance in Germany. Even travel vaccinations and malaria tablets are often paid for. So, make sure to check with your insurance before you get vaccinated, in any case. 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.