Guide to the German healthcare system: A comprehensive explanation for foreign scholarship holders and guest lecturers.

Welcome to Germany! If you are coming to Germany as a foreign scholarship holder or guest lecturer, it is important to familiarize yourself with the German healthcare system.

Germany has one of the best healthcare systems in the world and offers comprehensive medical care. This guide is designed to help foreigners navigate the German healthcare system and take the necessary steps to ensure they receive the right medical care when needed. German healthcare system explained:

Basic structure of the German healthcare system.

The German healthcare system is based on a dual system of statutory health insurance (GKV) and private health insurance (PKV). Around 90% of the population is covered by statutory health insurance, while the rest is privately insured.

Statutory health insurance (GKV):

  • Compulsory insurance for all employees with an income below a certain limit.
  • Costs covered by the employer
  • Medical services are often paid for directly
  • Contribution rates are based on income.
  • Family members without their own income are also insured.

Private health insurance (PKV):

  • Optional for the self-employed, civil servants and employees with an income above the compulsory insurance limit.
  • The self-payer principle with reimbursement applies here – this means that the insured person initially pays for all medical services themselves and then submits the invoices to the insurance company for reimbursement.
  • The premium amount is based on individual risk factors such as age and state of health.
  • Individual and often more extensive benefits than in statutory health insurance.
  • Compulsory insurance

Health insurance is compulsory in Germany.

This means that everyone who lives or works in Germany must have health insurance. As a foreign scholarship holder or guest lecturer, you should ensure that you are insured accordingly.

Scholarship holders: Many scholarship programs include health insurance. Check the conditions of your scholarship and clarify whether and how you are covered by health insurance. You are also very welcome to contact us if you have any questions.

Guest lecturers: Your employer should support you in choosing the appropriate health insurance and, if necessary, help you to register. You are also welcome to contact us if you have any questions.

Doctor visits and medical care.

Family doctor (general practitioner):

  • The first point of contact for health problems.
  • Referrals to specialists or hospital if necessary.


  • Specialized doctors who can be consulted on referral from the family doctor.
  • Appointments may have different waiting times depending on the urgency.


  • For emergencies and specialized treatments.
  • In emergencies, go directly to the emergency room or call the emergency number (112).
  • Pharmacy and medication


  • Medication is sold in pharmacies, which can be found all over Germany.
  • Prescription drugs can only be obtained with a prescription from your doctor.
  • Non-prescription medicines: Some medicines such as painkillers or cold remedies are also available without a prescription.

Emergencies and urgent medical assistance:

  • Emergency number: 112 for medical emergencies and rescue services.
  • Medical on-call service: Outside of regular office hours, you can contact the medical on-call service on 116117.

Important tips for foreign scholarship holders and guest lecturers:

Proof of insurance: Always carry a copy of your proof of insurance with you.

Health insurance number: You will receive an individual health insurance number, which you will need when visiting doctors and pharmacies.

Language barriers: Many doctors speak English, but it’s helpful to know basic medical terms in German or have a translator on hand.

Screenings: Take advantage of the comprehensive preventative screenings covered by health insurance.


The local healthcare system offers comprehensive and high-quality medical care in Germany. By finding out about your health insurance in good time and taking the necessary steps to navigate the system, you can ensure that you are well cared for in the event of illness.

The IHSCP TARIF is suitable, for example, for all foreign scholarship holders, prize winners, visiting academics, doctoral students, students and language students who stay in Germany for up to a maximum of 4 years and have a permanent residence outside Germany.

The ISHCP-STT TARIFF is suitable for all international academics who are in Germany on a short-term basis and require short-term health insurance.

The FLEXMED GLOBAL IMPAT TARIFF is specially designed for foreign scholarship holders of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and THE NEW INSTITUTE gGmbH as well as other scholarship providers based in Germany. In cooperation with AXA Krankenversicherung AG, this tariff offers first-class health insurance cover.

If you have any questions, please contact us so that you can enjoy your stay in Germany well protected and healthy.

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