Germany has a good health care system. And you have the right to medical treatment. However, what that includes can vary depending on your residence status.
To see a doctor, you will need a health insurance card or a health insurance certificate from the social welfare office. Whether you receive health insurance or need a health insurance certificate depends on your residence status. You can find more information on this under "Your Rights".
In general, Germany observes the following rules:
Doctors must maintain confidentiality. That means that they may not discuss what you tell them. The public health offices and counselling centres will even help you if you’d rather not give your name or if you need free treatment.
We recommend that you see a general practitioner when you’re sick. He or she will give you a letter of referral if you need to see a specialist, such as a dermatologist or a gynaecologist.
To make an appointment, we recommend you call the doctor’s office ahead of time. If you experience acute pain or problems, you can also see a doctor without making a prior appointment. If you speak only a little German, you can bring along someone to translate for you.
A doctor usually decides whether you need to go to the hospital (for example, for an operation), and he or she will give you a hospital admission form. When you do go to the hospital, you will need to bring your health insurance card, the hospital admission form and your identification papers/passport.
Hospitals also treat emergencies. If you suddenly fall very ill and no doctor’s office is open (for example, in the evenings or on weekends), you can also go to the hospital emergency department. The emergency room staff must help you even if you have no health insurance!
In Germany, medications are sold through pharmacies. These establishments usually have a big red “A” (for “Apotheke”) above the door or in the window. A pharmacist, or chemist, can advise you on many minor complaints and also recommend appropriate medication. However, for some medications, you will need a doctor’s prescription. Health insurance will pay for this type of medication, but you must pay for non-prescription medications yourself.
Tip: In the city or surrounding areas, there is always one pharmacy on emergency duty at nights and on weekends. The address is usually posted on the door of every pharmacy.
Many cities have public health offices (sometimes they have other names, such as “Fachdienst Gesundheit”).
If you do not have health insurance, you can speak to the public health office about receiving help anyway. You do not need to provide your name, and the staff must maintain confidentiality, which means that they may not tell anyone what you have told them.
Many public health offices offer vaccinations, pregnancy exams and testing for HIV as well as other sexually transmitted diseases. The HIV test is either free of charge or only costs between 10 and 15 euros.
Tip: Some public health offices have staff members who speak languages other than German.
To learn more about HIV or if you’re infected with HIV, you can visit or call an HIV/AIDS service organisation or HIV/AIDS counselling centre in your area.
HIV/AIDS service organisations are available in every large city as well as in many smaller towns. HIV/AIDS service organisations are non-governmental organisations. They can help you find a doctor, a support group or an organisation that assists people without papers. Again, you do not need to provide your name, and the counsellors must maintain confidentiality.
Tip: Some HIV/AIDS service organisations have staff members who speak languages other than German.