Health issues

Doctor’s visits, pharmacies and insurance

If you are ill and feel that you require medical treatment, you first need to see a so-called family doctor (i.e. a general practitioner). He will examine you and determine whether he/she can treat you him-/herself, or whether you need to be referred to a specialist. If you do need to see a specialist, the family doctor will issue a referral notice so that you can subsequently see the specialist.

You can go to a dentist, optometrist or gynaecologist directly, without first seeing a family doctor.

If you do not have a family doctor yet, search for a doctor’s practice in your area online, and check when their consultation hours are. It is best to call the doctor’s office first to make an appointment. Sometimes, however, you may need to wait some time for an appointment; if you have acute symptoms and need to see a doctor urgently, you can show up at most doctor’s practices during consultation hours without an appointment – in this case, we advise that you go there as early as possible in order to reduce your  waiting time.

Always take your health insurance documents along when seeing a doctor and ensure that you indicate that you have foreign health insurance when making an appointment: unfortunately, not all medical services will be covered through the health insurance. Enquire whether your health insurance will pay for your examination and treatment. You can also check which services are taken on by your health insurance on your health insurance provider’s website. Naturally, you can also call the health insurance’s hotline to ask about individual cases.

If you have been in an accident or are experiencing severe pain and cannot go to the doctor on your own, or if you need immediate medical treatment for acute pain or symptoms and no doctor’s practices are open (at night, over the weekend), you have the following options:

  • Call an emergency doctor
  • Go to the emergency room at a hospital

You will find information and phone numbers here.

If there is no emergency, do not go to a hospital first, but rather to a normal doctor’s practice. If the doctor discovers that you have an illness or injury that needs to be treated in a hospital, he will ensure that you get an examination appointment at a hospital.

In emergencies, you can also go directly to a hospital – e.g. if you have been in an accident and need immediate treatment, or if you are experiencing such severe pains at night that you need help immediately. In these cases, you need to go to the hospital’s “emergency room”. You will find a list of Aachen hospitals here.

If you are attending a language course as a foreigner in Germany, or if you are studying or staying in the country for a similar reason, you are obliged to be covered by health insurance. Participants who require a visa for their stay in Germany must already prove in their visa application that they have arranged health insurance for the relevant period of time.

In Germany, one differentiates between statutory and private health insurance. While you are attending a German course or a preparatory college, you must have private health insurance. As soon as you begin university studies in Germany, you are required to have the statutory students’ health insurance.

There are some countries (e.g. EU countries and countries that belong to the European Economic Region) that have concluded a social security agreement: if you come from one of these countries and are legally medically insured there, you can have this status acknowledged by the German statutory health insurance. In this case, one does not need to obtain additional health insurance in Germany. In order to be freed from the need to have health insurance in Germany, in most cases you will need a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Please confirm with the health insurance provider in your home country whether this option exists for you. Please do so well in advance, before your arrival.

Depending on your health insurance, some services are covered, so that you do not need to pay anything for them. Please inform yourself in detail about what your insurance covers when you sign up for it. When you see a doctor in Germany, you can indicate which insurance you have when making the appointment and enquire whether the costs that arise will be covered by the insurance provider. For this reason, it is essential that you take your insurance documents with you to the doctor.

In many cases, doctors, dentists and hospitals will contact your health insurance provider directly and send the invoice to them: if this option is available, it is the easiest solution, as you do not then need to cover the initial costs yourself. Therefore, please always take your insurance documents with you to the doctor: this makes the process easier for everyone involved.

If the doctor cannot issue the invoice directly to your health insurance, you will need to do this yourself: in this case, send the invoice, together with the necessary form, which will be provided by the health insurance, to the insurance provider. The insurance provider will then transfer its contribution into your account.

In addition to health insurance, we recommend that you also take out accident insurance and liability insurance.

The accident insurance comes into effect when, as a result of an accident, you can, for example, no longer work to your full capacity and will therefore suffer financial disadvantages.

The liability insurance is important if you cause damage that results in expenses for another person: these costs are then covered by the insurance, provided that all requirements are fulfilled.

You can obtain more information from your insurance provider.

In Germany, there are some medicines that you can only get from the pharmacy if a doctor has prescribed them: they are “only available on prescription”. If you need any of these medicines, the doctor will issue a “prescription” after the examination. You then take this prescription to the pharmacy and purchase the required medicine.

Pharmacies are generally only open during normal shop opening times: however, there is always an emergency pharmacy, which is open longer, and even at night. So, if you need medicine urgently, you can check which pharmacy currently offers the emergency service and go there. You will find a list of the pharmacy emergency services here.

The costs for prescription medicines are partially or sometimes fully covered by the health insurance: at the pharmacy, you will often not need to pay the full price for medicines for which you have presented a prescription.

  • Emergency: 112 (without area code)
  • Fire department: 112 (without area code)
  • Police: 110 (without area code)
  • Doctor’s centre: 0180 / 5044100 

Cover photo: © Sarah Thelen

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