Gesundheit und Versicherungen Foto: ©
For migrants with a visa

What to do if you are ill

In the event of minor illnesses, such as colds or headaches, you can buy medication in a pharmacy. But many medicines are available on prescription only. The prescription must be written by a doctor. Then you can use the prescription to collect your medication from the pharmacy, and you only have to pay a contribution towards the cost.

Pharmacies are usually open from Monday to Friday from 8am to 6.30 or 6pm, on Saturdays they close at 1pm. In cities however, some pharmacies are open until 8pm. And there is an emergency service for Saturday/Sunday and during the night. 

Seeing the doctor

Do you feel very ill? The best thing is to make an appointment with the GP. Is your child unwell? Then go to the paediatrician. You can normally only go to the doctor from Monday to Friday. But there is an out-of-hours doctor service for Saturday/Sunday and during the night.

If you have a doctor’s appointment you need a card from your health insurance company, the health card. The first time you visit the doctor, you need to fill in a questionnaire with your personal details and information about your illnesses. Once you have registered you wait in the waiting room. They will call your name. Often it only takes a few minutes, but it can be an hour or more.

In the consulting room the doctor asks you some preliminary questions. At this point you should describe your symptoms precisely. What hurts? How long has it been hurting? Have you ever had this pain before? After questioning you, the doctor will examine you. After that he will make a diagnosis. He will tell you what illness you have.   

Sick note and specialists

Once he has examined you, the doctor may write you a sick note. He will often give you a prescription for medication too. Perhaps you will also be given an appointment for your next examination. Or the GP will refer you to a specialist, for instance an ENT doctor, orthopaedic specialist or a gynaecologist. The specialist will then give you a further examination.   

Different insurance policies

Everyone lives with risks: a risk is for example sickness or incapacity for work (you can’t work anymore). In a situation like that, you suddenly have additional costs. So that you are not solely responsible for these costs, you can take out insurance: you pay money to an insurance company every month or every year. In the event of sickness or incapacity to work, the insurance company pays you money. Some types of insurance are compulsory in Germany: everyone has to have these policies. Other insurance is voluntary: you can have the insurance if you like. 

Compulsory insurance

The most important compulsory insurance schemes are health insurance, pension insurance and unemployment insurance. Health insurance pays for your visits to the doctor or any medication you need. Unemployment insurance provides you with money for a year if you lose your job and do not find a new one. Pension insurance is also compulsory for employees: when you are old you cannot work anymore. The pension insurance scheme pays out money for you to live on. Do you have an employer? Then you do not have to pay the money for health insurance and social insurance all by yourself. Your employer pays almost half of it. If you have a car or motorbike, you also need vehicle insurance. What if you have an accident and another car is damaged? The vehicle insurance policy pays for the repair, or a proportion of it.   

Voluntary insurance

The most important voluntary insurance policies are liability insurance, house and contents insurance and life insurance. Have you broken something belonging to another person? Then the liability insurance pays for it. The house and contents insurance pays if things are damaged in your home, for instance in the event of water damage. And the life insurance policy pays out if you die. The money can be paid out to the children, for instance.

There are many other insurance policies besides. Private accident insurance for instance pays out if you have an accident outside working hours. Legal protection insurance is for legal assistance, for instance to hire a solicitor. Payment protection insurance, travel insurance and pet insurance are also available. But check carefully which policies you need. The thing is, every insurance policy costs money.

For asylum seekers

In the Event of Illness

In an emergency, refugees who are awaiting a reply in their asylum process can see a doctor. That’s the law. Before you can go to a doctor, you have to apply for a special health insurance voucher with the social welfare office. Please take this voucher with to your doctor’s appointment so that the social welfare office can pay for the medical costs. Sometimes a doctor may prescribe medication. Take the prescription to a pharmacy to receive your medication. The costs are paid by the social welfare office. Pregnant women or mothers with babies are granted special support from the state.

If you have been living in Germany for more than 15 months, you will no longer need a health insurance voucher when you want to see a doctor. The social welfare office will pay in the same way as a health insurance. However, only standard examinations are covered. The social welfare office will not pay for glasses or travel expenses to reach the doctor. Regulations may vary for children.

In Germany, everybody who has health insurance also has a health insurance card. In the federal states of Hamburg and Bremen, every refugee also receives a health insurance card. This card means that you no longer need a health insurance voucher and can go directly to the doctor. However, this does not mean that you have health insurance. The social welfare office will pay for standard examinations only.

Psychological Problems

The same applies to psychological problems: In the beginning you may only see a doctor in an emergency. However, many towns have advice centres that can help. A doctor can also tell you where you can get help.

Frequently asked questions

Where can I find a GP near to where I live?

Can I go straight to a specialist?

How do I find an emergency doctor in my area?

How do I get a health card?

What do I have to do if I am sick and cannot go to work?

How do I find a doctor who speaks my native language?

What is the difference between a medical practice and a hospital?

How much do I have to pay for health insurance and pension insurance?

My company has to pay something towards my health insurance and pension insurance. How do I get the money?

I earn a lot of money and the statutory health insurance is too expensive for me. Is there an alternative?

Where can I find a pension insurance company?

When I’m old, the pension insurance scheme will pay me. Will I receive as much money as I earn now?

The car insurance pays out if I damage another car. But what do I do if I damage my own car in an accident?

I am looking for an insurance policy for my dog. What sort of insurance is good?

I have many questions on the subject of insurance. Who can help me?

More questions? Contact the advisors at the Youth Migration Services.