Staying at a German hospital: What you should know

Staying at a German hospital: What you should know

by Lea Hauke

Updated July 13, 2023

While living or traveling in Germany, you may end up needing to seek medical care at a German hospital. Hospital stays aren’t reserved for the critically sick or injured — it may simply be that you need an x-ray or other medical exam. In any case, doctors and medical staff at German hospitals offer a wide variety of services, from emergency treatments to help when giving birth.. There are three different kinds of hospitals in Germany, each with its own distinct characteristics. 

Although we hope that you remain in perfect health and don’t need medical attention anytime soon, here is everything you need to know about staying at a German hospital. 

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Types of hospitals in Germany

There are three different types of hospitals in the German healthcare system. While most hospitals in Germany are free to those with statutory health insurance, there are some exceptions that are only open to those with private insurance. 

Public hospitals

Public hospitals (öffentliche Krankenhäuser) are funded by the state. They are typically larger hospitals with expanded capacities for patients. In bigger cities, university hospitals (Unikliniken) are often among the public hospitals. 

Charitable hospitals

Charitable hospitals (Freigemeinnützige Krankenhäuser) are often run by charitable institutions such as the Red Cross. These organizations tend to have strong ties to the church or other religious organizations, but this isn’t always the case. 

Private clinics

As the name suggests, private clinics (Private Krankenhäuser) are not run by the state but by private organizations, such as sole traders or corporations. In many cases, only patients with private insurance are accepted in these hospitals. 

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How can you access hospital treatment in Germany?

The German healthcare system is one of the oldest in the world. It relies on statutory health insurance that covers medical expenses for Germany’s workers. Everyone who works in Germany and earns more than the minimum wage (520 € per month in 2023) is automatically insured by law. 

If you’re experiencing a medical issue that does not require emergency treatment, a doctor must refer you to a German hospital before you can go. This may be necessary for some medical tests, as hospitals often have specialized equipment that isn’t available in a typical doctor’s office. 

In case of an emergency, most hospitals are obliged to take patients in regardless of their health insurance. In case of an accident or other emergency situation that requires ambulance transportation, the number to call is 112. Of course, an ambulance isn’t always necessary. If you’re in need of emergency treatment and can make it to a hospital by yourself, you can drive, walk, or take public transit to the closest hospital. 

What to expect while staying at a German hospital

The German healthcare system is famous for its high quality of care. But that doesn’t mean you should expect a luxurious, resort-like experience during your stay at a German hospital. 

Most hospitals provide food and drinks to patients three times a day. Depending on where you’re staying, the quality of the food can vary greatly. While German hospital food tends to have a bad reputation, this issue has seemingly improved. These days, mosthospital kitchens do their best to provide healthy, tasty meals that help to promote a speedy recovery. 

If you’ve just moved to Germany and need medical care, you may be surprised by the lack of privacy in German hospital rooms. Most hospital patients do not stay in a private room, but share a common room with other patients. This is due to the lack of space in many facilities. That does not mean that it will be crammed, as most rooms are limited to two to four patients at a time. But prepare to make some new friends during your stay. 

Costs for staying at a German hospital

Costs for a hospital stay are covered by health insurance in most cases, so you typically don’t need to pay anything out-of-pocket. However, the amount covered can vary, as the German healthcare system has two options of health insurance to offer: statutory health insurance and private health insurance. 

How much is covered by health insurance?

If you have private health insurance, you will be expected to pay for your hospital stay upfront. Once you’ve shared the bill with your insurance provider, they will most likely reimburse you for the majority or full cost of your stay. Depending on the conditions of your insurance contract, you may even have some additional perks covered by private insurance, such as a private room available upon request. 

Statutory health insurance will also cover most expenses for a hospital stay. You will typically not have to pay upfront, but you will be expected to show your insurance card. People with statutory health insurance are expected to pay €10  per day for a hospital stay, but that expense is capped at 28 days per year. Everyone under 18 is allowed to stay for free. 

In good hands: Staying at a German hospital

The quality of living and the high life expectancy in Germany can be attributed — at least in part — to the quality of medical care in German hospitals. While your health insurance will most likely cover most of the expenses, there are distinct differences between private and statutory health insurances that change the procedure and perks you’ll be entitled to during your stay at a German hospital. 

If you ever find yourself in an emergency situation such as an accident in German traffic, you may need to call 112. Operators don’t always speak perfect English, so it will help a lot if you have some basic German skills and are able to communicate at a basic level. When all else fails, you should be able to get by in English. 

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Lea Hauke

Lea is a writer and translator for English and German and lives in Austria. Her love for literature is only met by her enthusiasm for music. During her studies in Berlin, she started writing for different music magazines and was the singer and drummer of a punk band. When she completed her Masters in English Literature, she moved to Tyrol, where she started her own business. Since then she has made it her mission to help others to find the right words for their ideas and projects. You can find more information about her on her website and on LinkedIn.

Lea Hauke

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