Is Healthcare Free in Germany?

German healthcare is one of the reputable in Europe and the world. Everyone who lives in Germany has access to high-quality medicine and competent doctors. Are you wondering if their services are free of charge?

Healthcare isn’t free in Germany. However, you won’t pay for medical services, but your public insurance will do it instead. German healthcare is funded by the taxes that residents pay every month. For an employee, it’s 14,6% of the gross salary.

However, exceptions can be found everywhere, including German healthcare. In some cases, one might avoid insurance payments or reduce the premium amount. In this post, you will learn all about German healthcare and all the possible ways to use it for free or at minimum costs.

How Does German Healthcare Works?

Many believe that Germany provides free healthcare for all, young and old, poor and rich. However, it’s only partly true. In Germany, people don’t pay their medical bills after visiting a doctor, but it doesn’t mean they receive medical services for free.

Healthcare in Germany is publicly funded, meaning the cost of health and medical expenses is shared by taxpayers. As an employee, you contribute 14,6% of your income to public health insurance every month.

Germany obligates everyone to have health insurance (we recommend Feather), whether you are visiting the country or living here. An insured person is eligible to use health services at no extra costs as long as the insurance premium has been paid.

If talking about public health insurance, which 90% of the population is using, employees and self-employed one pay around 14,6 % of their income for the premium monthly.

For employees, the employer shares the obligations for your insurance by half. Therefore, the company will contribute 7,3% of your salary from its budget, and you (employee) will pay the rest 7,3%.

The amount you pay for private insurance isn’t fixed, as in the case with public insurance. Private insurance companies set their rates independently from your income. Premiums vary from one insurance provider to another and depend on the selected package and coverage.

Private insurance is often cheaper for young professionals but gets progressively more expensive.

For notice, workers with public health insurance don’t lose benefits when changing jobs or getting fired. However, for owners of private premiums, different rules might apply.

Private health insurance provided by Feather gives you many benefits as a foreigner in Germany. This company speaks English, coverage is more than sufficient, packages are personalized to your situation, and sign-up happens conveniently online. Feather is the next-generation insurance provider, which you can trust. Read reviews here.

Which Healthcare Services You Can Use for Free?

Usually, your health insurance will cover all necessary treatments, operations, procedures, analysis, and most of the medicaments prescribed by the doctor. Germany doesn’t have a deductible system like in the US.

The German healthcare system is divided into three main areas: outpatient care, inpatient care (the hospital sector), and rehabilitation facilities. The statutory health insurance will give you access to all these facilities.

When visiting the doctor, a patient shows the insurance card, and the provider automatically pays the invoice. Although the services of some health practitioners might not be included in your coverage, the bill will be handed to you.

It also depends on the insurance type: public or private. Coverage of public providers often doesn’t include specialists like ophthalmologists, psychotherapists, and cosmetic procedures at the dentist’s office. Additionally, insurance often doesn’t pay for various examinations for the early detection of diseases. In all these cases, a patient is responsible for his/her bills.

On the other hand, German law says the following for services that insurances can cover: “The services must be adequate, functional and economical; they must not exceed the level of the necessary.”

Nonetheless, any health insurance in Germany will pay for your stay in the hospital if you need inpatient care.

Read more about healthcare expenses you can expect in Germany: Cost of the Private Health Insurance.

When Heath Care Is Free in Germany?

German health insurance will give you the right to use German healthcare services to the extent your insurance package allows. Everything above must be paid by the patient.

However, if you are living in Germany on a permanent basis, insurance will cover most of your needs. In some cases, you even don’t have to pay for the insurance. If you fall into one of the categories below, the costs for monthly contributions will be paid either by the government or by the hiring party.

Read our guide about health insurance costs and cheapest insurance options in Germany.

Volunteering/FSJ or BFD

If you never heard about FSJ or BFD in Germany, you probably didn’t know that volunteers don’t have to pay for their health insurance during that program.

Costs for health insurance will be covered by the hiring organization. Therefore, your monthly healthcare costs will be zero, but you still will have public insurance and can use all medical services.

Usually, the program goes for half a year and to the maximum of one year, but BFD can be completed for longer – 2 years. You also have to be at least 16 years old and a maximum of 27 years old for the FSJ program. BFD, on the other hand, doesn’t have any age restrictions.

You will also benefit from improving your German in daily life and gaining some life experience.

This was my choice after the Au-Pair program, it also the easiest and cost-effective way to spend another year in Germany.

A volunteer visa does not require you to have either funds or accommodation. Moreover, the institution where you will work pays a salary and sometimes accommodate. The maximum compensation is 402 EUR plus the amount of your rent if the organization does not provide accommodation.

Usual places to work state organizations like hospitals, junior sports clubs, services for disabled people, preservation of historical monuments, ambulatory services, integration houses, civil protection and disaster management, church communities, children’s homes such as kindergartens.


An unemployed person is automatically insured in the statutory health insurance, which the government pays until they find a new employer.

But it doesn’t mean you can just come to Germany, don’t work, and receive medical service for free. You can only receive this benefit if you have already paid for 12 months to the unemployment insurance during the last two years of living in Germany.

Thanks to unemployment insurance, which each employee in Germany has, you can expect some gifts from the government, including monthly payments of at least 60% of the net wage, paid accommodation, and other free or cost reduced goods/services/support.

Overall, monthly compensation might not exceed 6,700 EUR in West Germany and 6,150 EUR in East Germany. You can claim it only when you lose your job.

Hence you need to work for 12 months in the country to receive these benefits so the government will pay your health insurance.

Read more in article: Health Insurance in Germany as an unemployed.

Au-Pair Program

Au Pair is a nanny who comes from another country to Germany for one year to learn the German language and culture. In terms of this program, guest families are obligated to pay for your health insurance, as well as for accommodation and food.

Additionally, Au-Pair receives monthly pocket money (salary) of at least 260 EUR per month. Some families might pay more. So Au-Pair in Germany can use excellent German healthcare at no cost.

In exchange for it, a nanny takes care of kids and does light housework, in total up to 30 hours per week. It’s a good option for young females. They can apply before turning 26 years.

Private and Public Health Insurance: The Difference


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German healthcare is divided into two categories: public and private. Currently, 80% of the German population are customers of public health insurance organizations and the rest of private insurance companies.

Usually, each employee will automatically be granted public health insurance, and only when they earn more than 5,062 EUR gross per month or 60,744 per year can they apply for the private one.

Health insurance is obligatory for all people in Germany. Even tourists must have one. Foreigners who came to Germany to study, volunteer, or work, can get public insurance.

The main differences in German insurances are that private have a more customized and personalized approach, and the client gets shorter waiting times and better hospital conditions.

For example, patients with private health insurance enjoy staying in a single or double room at a hospital instead of a small shared room with three or four beds.

If you are self-employed private insurance will be a better choice, it won’t depend on your income. Usually, private providers set their rates independently and offer better coverage.

Check out the most recommended health insurance in Germany, Ottonova, it’s customized for foreign employees, expats, freelancers, and self-employed. Another option would be private insurance from Feather, which is suitable for self-employed people with relatively high incomes.

Both of them provide the most common & necessary medical services and treatments. You will also receive prescribed medicine for free or partially free.

However, some specialist care, such as eye care, dental care, and alternative medicine, might be unavailable or have limitations on what you can claim with public insurance.

In general, necessary conservative dentistry and surgical treatments are covered by both health insurance types.

In terms of payment for treatments, private clients will need to pay directly after the treatment. You can reclaim your money back from the insurance company after the treatment.

In the case of public insurance, you don’t have to pay a bill yourself. All invoices are sent directly to the insurance provider.

With the public coverage, family members of the insured employee can also be members of the same insurance company and have the same claims. Moreover, they don’t have to pay additionally for non-working spouses and children.

So you are thinking about which insurance to take? Here are factors to consider:

  • Your age
  • Your legal status and family situation
  • Your salary and occupation
  • The intended duration of your stay
  • The services and benefits you prefer

Private insurance isn’t available for everyone. When examining clients, companies look firstly at your income, secondly at age, and thirdly on pre-existing conditions. Consequently, older people with some health issues will need to pay relatively significant compensation for insurance or won’t be considered at all.

Thus, private health insurance can be of particular interest to adults in good health and with high income. Private insurance with minimal coverage can be easier oranged than public because the second usually takes time to approve and require you to live permanently in Germany.

On the other hand, public health insurance takes everyone under the coverage, independently from your salary, age, or diseases.

The benefits of private and public health insurance in Germany:

Faster and Individual service Available for all people at all income
Cost efficient for high earners and self-employedAdditional insurance for family members
Better conditions in a hospitalWide range of providers
Access to exclusive doctors and wider range of servicesGet accepted with preconditions
Convenient for a short stay in GermanyEasier to apply and receive

Recommended products and services in Germany:

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Anna is an enthusiastic expatriate with experience of living in Germany, Austria and Greece. She shares her passion for living abroad on this website.

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