Living and working conditions

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Living conditions

The health system


Employment for pay or vocational training means workers are obliged to have pension, health, long-term care and unemployment insurance.

All employees are subject to compulsory insurance. This means that they are required by law to be insured in the various branches of social security.

If you intend to work in Germany, you must take out health insurance as an employee as soon as you sign an employment contract. To ensure that illness does not pose a financial risk, the statutory health insurance funds provide their members and their members’ families with cover in the event of illness. Non-working spouses and children can also be included in the insurance. Employees can take out private insurance if their gross monthly income has exceeded the compulsory insurance limit of EUR 5 062 (ceiling for 2019) for a whole year.

The self-employed, freelancers and artists are generally privately insured regardless of their income level, as are tenured civil servants and other persons entitled to receive benefits such as judges, members of a Landtag [regional assembly] and members of the Bundestag.

The compulsory insurance limit is set annually by the legislator. There is a general and special compulsory insurance limit.

Employees who earn a salary above this compulsory insurance limit can take out voluntary insurance.

For a temporary stay in another Member State, EU citizens and citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) merely require a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in order to receive medical treatment if they fall ill.

Before seeing a doctor you should register by phone first. For acute illnesses or accidents, you will be given an appointment immediately or on the same day. Otherwise, you will have to wait for several days or even weeks, particularly for dentists or specialists. Few practices are open on Saturdays, and only emergency services can be accessed on Sundays.

If, after being examined, you have received a prescription for the prescribed medication from the doctor, the pharmacies usually charge an additional fee of EUR 5 to 10 per item. In the case of minor disorders, you will receive non-prescription medicines. You can get a free consultation in all pharmacies also without visiting a doctor.

If you suddenly need a doctor in the night, at weekends or on public holidays, the emergency doctors and doctors on call will help you. In this case, call a doctor in your area. An automatic telephone-answering machine will normally list the surgery hours of the doctor concerned and then give the name of the emergency locum. You also have the option of going to the accident and emergency department of a hospital. Some pharmacies are also open at weekends and on public holidays. You will generally find the relevant information on signs at the entrance.

If you require an ambulance, dial 112.


Text last edited on: 06/2019

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