Healthcare System in Germany: A Guide for International Students

Looking to understand healthcare in Germany as an international student? Our comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about the country's healthcare system, including emergency helplines, health insurance options, and benefits. Discover how Germany prioritizes preventive care and early intervention to provide quality medical services to all residents.

Healthcare System in Germany: A Guide for International Students
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May 26, 2023 06:51 AM
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Greetings, aspiring international students! To ensure a successful study abroad journey, it's vital to understand the German healthcare system. Germany boasts an efficient healthcare model, offering universal coverage to all residents, including international students. Statutory Health Insurance (SHI) provides comprehensive medical services, while Private Health Insurance (PHI) offers tailored options.
Your well-being matters, and we're here to guide you through the intricacies of healthcare in Germany. Let's begin!

Benefits of the German Healthcare System for International Students

  • Comprehensive Coverage and Quality Healthcare Services: The German healthcare system provides international students access to various medical services, ensuring they receive quality healthcare, including routine check-ups, specialized treatments, and emergency care.
  • Affordability and Cost-Sharing Mechanisms: Germany's Statutory Health Insurance (SHI) offers affordable monthly premiums tailored to students' financial situations. Additionally, co-payments for medical services are generally minimal and manageable.
  • Access to Specialized Medical Treatments and Facilities: International students studying in Germany can benefit from the country's reputation for advanced medical research and cutting-edge technology, granting them access to specialized medical treatments and state-of-the-art facilities.
  • Supportive Healthcare Environment: The German healthcare system fosters a patient-centred approach, emphasizing open communication between healthcare professionals and patients, which creates a positive and reassuring experience for international students seeking medical assistance.
  • Health Promotion Initiatives: Germany places significant emphasis on preventive care and health promotion, encouraging regular check-ups, vaccinations, and health screenings to maintain good health and prevent the onset of diseases. International students can actively participate in these initiatives to promote their well-being.

The German Healthcare System

Germany takes immense pride in its well-structured and efficient healthcare system, designed to prioritize the health and well-being of its residents, including international students. The system operates on the principle of solidarity, wherein citizens and residents contribute to healthcare funding through various insurance schemes. Here are some critical aspects of the German healthcare system:
  • Universal Coverage: Germany ensures that everyone residing there has access to essential medical services, regardless of nationality or legal status.
  • Quality Care: The German healthcare system is renowned for its high standards and quality of medical care, with a strong emphasis on research and technological advancements.
  • Accessibility: Medical facilities and services are readily available throughout the country, even in rural areas, ensuring easy access to healthcare for all.

1. Statutory Health Insurance:

If you are an international student enrolled in a state-recognized university in Germany and are under 30, you are generally eligible to apply for Statutory Health Insurance (SHI). Here's what you need to know about SHI:

What is Statutory Health Insurance (SHI)?

Statutory Health Insurance, also known as Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung (GKV), is a mandatory form of health insurance for the majority of residents in Germany. It provides coverage for a wide range of medical services and treatments.

Eligibility for SHI

To be eligible for SHI, international students must fulfill the following criteria:
  • Enrollment in a state-recognized German university or educational institution.
  • Age under 30 years at the time of registration.
International students who meet these criteria can apply for SHI, ensuring access to a broad spectrum of medical services throughout their stay in Germany.

Comprehensive Coverage under SHI

Statutory Health Insurance offers extensive medical services, ensuring that international students receive the necessary care during their academic journey. Coverage under SHI typically includes:
  • Doctor's Visits and Medical Treatments: Access to general practitioners and specialists for medical consultations and treatments.
  • Prescription Medications: Subsidized or free prescription drugs for various health conditions.
  • Hospital Stays and Surgeries: In-patient hospital care and surgical procedures when needed.
In addition to the above, SHI covers essential health services such as maternity care, preventive screenings, and rehabilitation programs. It provides a safety net that ensures international students can focus on their studies without worrying about healthcare expenses.

Ancillary Benefits: Dental and Maternity Care

In Germany, dental care is essential to overall health, and SHI provides coverage for crucial dental treatments. However, some advanced or cosmetic dental procedures may need to be fully covered. It's critical to inquire about specific dental coverage with your insurance provider.
SHI also covers maternity care for expecting international students, including prenatal check-ups, childbirth, and postnatal care. This ensures pregnant students receive proper medical attention and support throughout their pregnancy journey.

Exceptions and Limitations: What SHI Doesn't Cover

While SHI offers comprehensive coverage, certain services fall outside its scope. Some examples of services not covered under SHI include:
  • Dental Procedures: Advanced or cosmetic dental treatments may not be fully covered.
  • Alternative Medicine: Services like acupuncture or homeopathy might not be covered, though some supplementary insurances offer this coverage.
International students must be aware of these limitations and consider supplementary insurance if they require coverage for specific services not included in SHI.

Providers of Statutory Health Insurance (GKV):

  1. AOK - Die Gesundheitskasse: One of the largest statutory health insurance funds in Germany, with regional branches (AOK Nordost, AOK Bayern, etc.).
  1. Techniker Krankenkasse (TK): A major statutory health insurance fund known for its customer service and online tools.
  1. Barmer: Another prominent statutory health insurance fund, serving millions of members across the country.
  1. DAK-Gesundheit: A well-established insurer with a wide range of coverage options.
  1. BARMER GEK: Resulted from the merger of Barmer Ersatzkasse and GEK, providing comprehensive coverage.
  1. IKK (Innungskrankenkassen): A group of statutory health insurance funds catering to specific professions, such as IKK Classic or IKK Nord.
  1. KKH (Kaufmännische Krankenkasse): A longstanding insurer with a strong focus on prevention and health promotion.

How to Apply for Statutory Health Insurance (GKV):

When you begin your studies or work in Germany, you are required to have health insurance. Applying for GKV is relatively straightforward:
  1. Choose an Insurance Provider: Research and compare different statutory health insurance funds to find one that suits your needs. Consider factors such as coverage options, additional benefits, and customer service.
  1. Registration: Once you have chosen an insurer, you can register online or visit their local office. You will need your passport or ID, proof of enrollment or employment, and your German address.
  1. Contribution: Your monthly contributions will be calculated based on your income, and you will be required to pay your share of the premium.

Private Health insurance

If you are an international student in Germany and meet specific criteria, you also have the option to opt for Private Health Insurance (PHI). Private health insurance plans cater to specific needs and preferences, providing a more personalized approach to healthcare. Let's explore the critical aspects of PHI:

Who is Eligible for Private Health Insurance (PHI)?

International students in Germany can opt for Private Health Insurance if they meet any of the following criteria:
  • Age and Income: Students over 30 or those with a high income might not be eligible for SHI and can choose to enrol in a private insurance plan.
  • Specific Needs: Some students may require specialized medical services not covered under SHI, making private insurance a more suitable choice.
  • Specific Situations: Students enrolled in non-regular degree programs, guest scientists, researchers are required to avail private health insurance

Advantages and Drawbacks of PHI

Private Health Insurance comes with its set of advantages and drawbacks that students should consider before making a decision:


  • Customized Coverage: PHI plans allow students to tailor their coverage to their healthcare needs, offering more flexibility.
  • Access to Specialists: Private insurance often grants faster access to specialized doctors and medical treatments.
  • Enhanced Services: Some private plans may cover additional services like alternative medicine or higher-grade hospital rooms.


  • Higher Costs: Private health insurance generally has higher premiums than Statutory Health Insurance.
  • Limited Reimbursements: Reimbursement rates for medical services may vary, and students might need to pay upfront and claim later.
It's essential for international students to carefully assess their healthcare requirements and financial situation before opting for PHI.

The extent of Coverage with PHI

Private Health Insurance in Germany offers extensive coverage, often exceeding the scope of Statutory Health Insurance. Some of the coverage areas under PHI include:
  • Specialized Treatments and Premium Services
PHI plans often cover a more comprehensive range of specialized medical treatments and diagnostic procedures. Students requiring specific medical attention or ongoing therapies may find these services beneficial.
  • Tailoring Coverage to Personal Needs
With PHI, international students can customize their insurance packages, choosing the level of coverage that best suits their needs. This personalized approach ensures that students only pay for the services they require.

Providers of Private Health Insurance (PKV):

Private health insurance providers in Germany include numerous companies that offer personalized coverage options. Some well-known insurers include:
  1. Allianz Private Krankenversicherung: A major private health insurance provider with a variety of plans.
  1. DKV Deutsche Krankenversicherung: Known for its diverse range of plans and comprehensive coverage.
  1. AXA Private Krankenversicherung: Offers customized health insurance options for individuals and families.
  1. HanseMerkur: A private health insurance provider with a reputation for good service.
  1. Debeka: Known for offering insurance coverage to civil servants and public employees.
How to Apply for Private Health Insurance (PKV):
Applying for private health insurance involves several steps:
  1. Eligibility Check: Determine if you are eligible for private health insurance based on your income and professional status.
  1. Comparison: Research and compare different private health insurance providers to find the best coverage and premium for your needs.
  1. Application: Contact the insurer directly or use their online application portal to apply for a private health insurance plan.
  1. Medical Underwriting: Some insurers may require a medical examination or review of your health history to determine your premium.
  1. Acceptance: Once approved, you will receive your policy details and can start benefiting from your private health insurance coverage.

Coverage and Cost

Type of Health Insurance
Average Monthly Cost (Approx.)
Statutory Health Insurance
Doctor visits, medical treatments, , dental care (partial), maternity, preventive care
Around € 120 per month
Private Health Insurance
In patient care, out patient care, dental care, medications and prescriptions
Between € 100 and €300


Understanding the healthcare system in Germany is vital for international students pursuing their master's degree. By familiarizing yourself with the structure, emergency helplines, health insurance options, document requirements, and the benefits it offers, you can ensure that your healthcare needs are met throughout your studies.
With its focus on preventive care and patient well-being, you can feel secure knowing your health is in good hands.


Q: Is health insurance mandatory for international students studying in Germany?
A: Yes, health insurance is mandatory for most international students in Germany. You must have health insurance coverage throughout your studies to ensure access to healthcare services. It can be either statutory health insurance or private health insurance, depending on your eligibility and preference.
Q: How do I choose between statutory and private health insurance?
A: The choice between statutory and private health insurance depends on various factors such as eligibility, coverage preferences, and budget. Statutory health insurance is the most common option and offers comprehensive coverage at affordable rates. Private health insurance provides additional benefits and flexibility but comes with higher premiums. Consider your circumstances and healthcare needs to make an informed decision.
Q: What documents do I need for healthcare services in Germany?
A: When accessing healthcare services in Germany, it's important to carry your health insurance card, identification (such as a passport), and any relevant medical records or prescriptions. Having these documents readily available will facilitate the process and ensure smooth communication with healthcare providers.
Q: Can I use my health insurance coverage while travelling outside Germany?
A: The coverage provided by your health insurance may vary when you travel outside of Germany. Some health insurance policies offer limited coverage for travel-related healthcare services, while others may require additional arrangements or travel insurance. Clarifying the terms with your insurance provider and considering supplemental coverage if necessary is important.
Q: What should I do in a medical emergency in Germany?
A: In case of a medical emergency in Germany, dial the general emergency hotline number 112. This number connects you to the fire department, police, and medical services. For medical emergencies outside regular office hours, you can contact the on-call doctors' service at 116117. These emergency helplines are available to assist you in serious situations and provide the necessary help promptly.
Q: Are there any cultural aspects I should be aware of when seeking medical care in Germany?
A: In Germany, doctor-patient relationships are characterized by open and direct communication. It is important to actively engage with your healthcare provider, ask questions, and express any concerns. Building a good rapport with your doctor can contribute to a positive healthcare experience. Don't hesitate to communicate your needs and preferences to ensure the best possible care.

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MS in Germany
MS in Germany

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