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German Health Care System

Important things to know about the German health and care structures

Health insurance in Germany

It is part of a comprehensive social security system, which consists of sickness and nursing care funds (= statutory health insurance), a pension fund and unemployment benefit. Instead of being a state-run public health service, our system is characterised by a close cooperation between the health insurance funds, the medical professions, hospitals and other related services. The state provides the necessary statutory framework. The statutory health insurance funds play a very significant role, since their mandate by law is to provide comprehensive coverage to their members if they should fall ill.

Your employer automatically registers you and deducts your contributions to the state social security system from your wages. The choice of statutory health insurance fund is up to you – but you have to inform your employer of your choice within two weeks of starting work, so that your contributions can be paid.

Statutory health insurance

All forms of statutory health insurance funds are self-governing, non-profit organisations by law, and are legal entities under public law. Each of these forms is responsible for balancing its own budget between member contributions as income and services to members as expenditure.

Various forms of statutory health insurance funds

Since 1996 these restrictions governing the choice of fund no longer apply.

Your health insurance contribution

Statutory health insurance is contribution-based (i.e. not levied via risk-premiums or taxes). Find out more about our contribution rates here

Nursing care insurance

In addition to your statutory health insurance, you are also obliged to pay nursing care insurance. This nursing care insurance is linked to your health insurance, for example the SBK-Pflegekasse for the SBK. Find out more about our nursing care insurance here.


Statutory health insurance also covers any dependent children or spouse (who are not earning themselves) at no extra cost.

Service structures of statutory health insurance

The services provided by the statutory health insurance funds are predominantly rendered in kind, such as out-patient services, hospital care, pharmaceuticals and remedies & rehabilitation services. Insured parties are entitled to any services and benefits within the legal parameters set by German law (Social Security Code, Book V). There are no geographical limits to accessing these benefits within Germany, but there are differences between the service levels offered by individual health insurance funds.

Free choice of health care provider

Under statutory health insurance, you are free to choose your health care provider and hospitals.

Main health care providers

All insured parties have access to all accredited health care providers. The main health providers are as follows:

Private insurance cover

Private insurance cover (i.e. non-statutory health insurance) is by law only available to those whose income is above the national average. This can take the form of supplementary or comprehensive insurance, which is provided by profit-based insurance companies, and is based on a cost reimbursement principle. This does not cover any further family members, and once you have signed up for private health insurance, you are by law no longer allowed to become a member of a statutory health insurance fund.