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German doctor practices run along free enterprise lines, but many doctors are also employed by hospitals. Healthcare standards are high, and Germans have quite an easy access to well-trained doctors and high-technology equipment, even in rural areas.
Unless you speak fluent German, language may be an issue. Many German physicians do speak English to an acceptable degree, but it is advisable to check this in advance. Alternatively, you can look for a directory of English-speaking doctors available in your local area.
If you are not happy with the German healthcare system, you can still consider postponing treatment until after you leave Germany. In any event, you must go to a German hospital if you are in an emergency situation. See Health Emergencies for Expats in Germany.
Most doctors in Germany operate on a first come, first served basis, and do not require you to book an appointment. Yet, appointments might still be helpful if you think you will have a long waiting time.
The fees charged by German doctors and hospitals are subject to centralised collective bargaining with insurers. Payment rates are standardised and moderate.
Check if your doctor or hospital accepts your insurance coverage. If you are enrolled for social insurance, some doctors do not qualify for reimbursement because they are not registered doctors (Kassenärzte). Feel free to ask if you have a doubt.
Finding a doctor
You should look for a good general practitioner (Hausarzt) in your local area as soon as possible. A GP may refer you to a specialist or to a hospital if he believes you need it. Few Germans go straight to a specialist.
You might wish to consider dental care in Germany, as these services are to some extent covered by German health insurance. Your insurance coverage may leave you with a few out-of-pocket costs, especially if you are on social insurance. Healthcare in Germany is not known to be expensive, but you should still get cost estimates prior to going ahead with major dental work.
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Word of mouth can help you determine if a specific doctor or hospital is trustworthy or not. You are always better off knowing in advance who you can trust.
Hospitals generally do not refuse any new patients with health insurance. Stays in German hospitals have traditionally been longer than their foreign counterparts. However, spending cuts have largely erased this since then.
Drugs are only available from specialised pharmacists (Apotheke). German pharmacies are on a co-payment system, and prescription charges may apply accordingly (generally €5).
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If you are considering moving to Germany or are soon to depart, you can find helpful information and advice in the Expat Briefing dedicated German section including; details of immigration and visas, German forums, German event listings and service providers in Germany.
From your safety to shopping, living in Germany can yield great benefits as well as occasional drawbacks. Find your feet and stay abreast of the latest developments affecting expats in Germany with relevant news and up-to-date information.
Working in Germany can be rewarding as well as stressful, if you don't plan ahead and fulfill any legal requirements. Find out about visas and passports, owning and operating a company in Germany, and general German culture of the labour market.
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