To my German readers: What do you think of your healthcare?

by Christina Geyer on August 22, 2009 · 14 comments

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I distant relative of mine wants to know: “german may be good it may be good for you BUT do all germans feel the same way ?

So I’d like to hear from you.  What do you think of the German healthcare system?

  • Juliette

    we are SO PLEASED with it! It’s waaay better than anything I’ve ever had in the US. I posted about our experience here: No co-payments, no fear, no restrictions on who I see or where I’m allowed to get care. It’s not expensive either.

    Also, I interact with a lot of Uni students who come here for a semester or year abroad and have to sign on to a German student plan – everybody is pretty happy with it, especially the American students. I’ve known 2 who went and got their wisdom teeth out while studying here, just because their German student insurance actually covered it and their American one didn’t! (I should add it was deemed ‘needed’ in the States, but b/c they weren’t covered, they didn’t do it. Once here, they said ‘heck yeah!’ and saw a German dentist who got the ball rolling for them over here.) Both of these students were insured with student packages from Barmer – a German health insurance company.
    .-= Juliette´s last blog ..Balcony Bliss =-.

  • rositta

    Since it is common knowledge that people are generally never happy with what they have, the comments you get should make for interesting reading. I know my German auntie always complains…ciao
    .-= rositta´s last blog ..Were We’ve Been =-.

  • CN Heidelberg

    I don’t even know where to begin. I love it. One of my biggest trepidations about going back to the US is leaving the German health care system.

    Germans complain that it is “two-tiered” but to my knowledge – and I’ve been looking around for info since seeing cancer survival statistics in the insured/uninsured in the US and wanted to see if there’s anything similar here – there is no evidence of a difference in health between those with public and private insurance.
    .-= CN Heidelberg´s last blog ..Where we’ve been the last 9 days =-.

  • Tammy

    I can’t speak for the Germans, but as an American living here for five years, I LOVE it. It took a while to get used to the different bed side manner of the doctors, but I have gotten used to them. I have also found a great GP and pediatrician who are very friendly and make a lot of time for me and my daughter if we ever need it.

    It has taken me a while to get used to the mentality over here. When I get hurt or feel sick, I hesitate to go to the doctors. In the US, it would cost me each time I went, and if it was something serious, it might cost me a lot more. Somehow, the led me to avoid doctors unless it was obviously very serious. Over here, the Germans tell me to go to the doctor if I think I might need it. I have felt like a bit of a baby sometimes, but the doctors were always great and reminded me that sometimes it’s just better to be sure that nothing more serious is happening. Also, if you like to go to the doctor and walk out with a prescription for a pill, this might not be the system for you. They strongly encourage natural alternatives when appropriate and aren’t trigger happy with antibiotics. I, personally, like that approach.

    I have had a baby here, and I recently had minor surgery. Both experiences were very good. The pregnancy and labor and delivery care were exceptional. They have a very different attitude toward natural birth here, and the birth of my daughter was a great experience even though she was breech (it would have meant a c-section in the US). A midwife came to my house each day for two weeks after the birth (I chose to go home after the birth rather than stay in the hospital for a few days). I didn’t pay anything for the birth. The only things I paid for during the pregnancy and postpartum care were the services of a small group of holistic midwives for prenatal, delivery and postpartum care (a total of 200 euros out of pocket – this was an optional service). I also paid for four sessions of prenatal acupuncture (15 Euros a piece) since the insurance doesn’t pay for alternative medicine treatments. All of these expenses were extras that we decided on.

    The surgery I recently had was also fine. The care was very good. I didn’t like the hospital stay, but that is just me. The hospital itself was fine with nice nurses and terrible food. I had to stay overnight since I was under general anesthesia (as is required here). I am sure it would have been an out patient procedure in the US. Going into the surgery, I didn’t want to stay int he hospital, but after coming out of it, I didn’t mind the extra care. From what I remember of the surgeries I had in the US, the feel of the hospital was very similar. I still remember being sent home after I had my tonsils out and was really impressed that they felt I was well enough to go home only a few hours later – I didn’t eat for over a week because of the pain! I also noticed here that I didn’t go home with a prescription for a narcotic either. They suggested the equivalent of Tylenol.

    The biggest benefit (aside from the great health care itself) is the peace of mind that I feel not having to worry about outrageous bills when I need medical attention. I also know that we won’t lose our insurance. I had pretty good health care while I lived in the US, but I still ended up paying more than I could afford (as a student) for things like regular checkups and exams. If I didn’t have the University health center to supplement my health care, I would have been in trouble.
    .-= Tammy´s last blog ..Why Women matter =-.

  • rita

    speaking as the token german so far in the comments, all i can say is that i am pretty satisfied with how the system works. although i can’t say much about developments in the past five years since i have not been ill to stop by my general practicioner. the only thing that will become a bit of an annoyance starting this october will be the amount of money i will have to pay into the pot. but that is a result from the uni not pushing hard enough to secure a student status for their phd-students. as a result, i will have to pay the full amount (somewhere around 110 to 120€ each month) myself out of my scholarship. at least my insurance (IKK) has started a new programme where i will be refunded an month’s worth of membership if i stay healthy. i’m not too worried, though, considering my previous track record. 😀
    .-= rita´s last blog ..impressions from london: first round =-.

  • Michael

    I am German and I am very happy with the healthcare here in Germany. I do not like that the rich can have private insurance without paying into the public insurance they should also have to pay into the public insurance but it is better than the US system.

    I don’t understand the debate in the US on healthcare. I’ve read on Spiegel and watched CNN and I don’t understand what Americans are so afraid of. I don’t understand why they are believing the lies that are spread at these protests. I don’t want to compare this to Nazism because that was very terrible but the Americans brought it up first. The Nazis spread lies and disinformation that was believed by the people because it was easy. They said all your problems are because of the Jews, if there are no more Jews there are no more problems and the people believed this because it is easier than to find the real problems. I worry very much about America now. I don’t think I want to live there anytime soon.

  • Claudia

    I’m German and live in the US. I like America and I have good Tricare insurance through my job but if I ever got seriously ill, I’d be on the first plane back to Germany. Americans are very nice and friendly I think there are just some that are afraid of change. The right wing media here feeds on fear and encourages people not to think for themselves. Its a little sad really but most Americans are wonderful, open, and intelligent. I don’t actually know any who are opposed to Obama’s healthcare plan, so I think these protesters aren’t that common they are just loud.

  • jja

    I am satisfied with my healthcare. For example, if my husband works and I don’t and our to kids are also there – we won’t have ANY extra costs, we are all insured over husband. Even if I need 2 or more very expensive operations in a year, I don ‘t pay anything, It is aloud to be sick, I am aloud to be sick for a month or more if I have to and my work is waiting for me and my days off are not jeopardized. My co-worker is ill for 3 months already (car accident), and gets full salary and sure has complete vacation still untouched and can use it till the end of the year.
    Even PhD students (if singel, otherwise insured over husband) for 120 Euro get covered everything. Everything.
    .-= jja´s last blog ..Kozmetika petkom =-.

  • Ric

    As a half-german/half-american I think the shoe fits, and I’ll wear it 😉
    It depends. I certainly like that healthcare is universal and provided without consideration of one’s personal income and/or premium. Either you are insured or you’re not.

    A concern is how it was “disimproved” for years, in order to increase efficiency and decrease or at least keep premiums steady. It’s somehow ironic that the German healthcare system was once “better” in a way that it covered “more for less” (co-payment such as 5 Euro per prescribed drog or 10 Euro per quarter you see your doctor,…), but provides great care for really low costs. While in the US the situation is vice versa, the system is very expensive and still does not provide any care for almost 50 Million of its citizens.
    I guess that topic is going to be discussed as part of a more comprehensive debate about “neoliberalism” (as in “the best Government is no Government”). Priorities have to be set, and with increasing lifespans its an oxymoron to provide healthcare with stable or even decreasing healthcare spendings. On the level of our society this means, less vacations, less consumerism and more spending on healthcare – and also on other issues of common interest such as infrastructure, education, and so on. We continue as we did during the last 20 years, the current crisis should be used as incentive to change things – “change we can believe in” 😉

  • Dave

    I used to have private healthcare here in Germany. It’s very cheap for a single male with no pre-existing conditions. But if they find something that they think was pre-existing (like my ankle that I sprained many years back) they try to intimidate you into high extra fees, or threaten to discontinue your insurance. Service is great though, once you’re accepted (as long as they don’t come up with more “we think this is pre-existing” conditions).

    Upon entering unemployment (or rather, a Transfer Company) I had to switch to public insurance. This costs more if you have a job, BUT covers the entire family at no additional charge (whereas private you have to pay more for every family member). I’m quite happy with it — no longer wait times so far, and it reimburses more than private did. Only a 10 euro copay per quarter. I took a prescription to the pharmacy, and when I asked how much I had to pay with TKK, she looked in the computer and said “Oh… nothing. Fully covered.” Right on, public Krankenkasse!

    By the way, it IS possible to not have insurance here (I know a self-employed person in that status). But I think it’s difficult.
    .-= Dave´s last blog ..Paris at Night – Eiffel Tower =-.

  • Paula

    I am German-American, and have lived in both countries a fairly equal amount of time. I am happy with German health care, but was also very satisfied with the private insurance I acquired in the US shortly after I finished my University studies. It is peculiar to me that the private health care system I joined in the US had a monthly premium that was 1/2 that of the public health care I pay for here in Germany. I should also mention that I am currently paying the lowest possible rate for public health care in Bavaria – approx. Euro 150 per month. The co-pays were fairly equal, and many medications, like the pill, have to be paid out of pocket in both countries. I must say that overall, I wish that America would stay with the system they currently have. I have several friends who are single moms and or on well-fare and they say that the US does an okay job at providing for their health care as well as their children’s. I have found that it is much easier to acquire employment in the US than Germany, and think it is reasonable for citizens to pay for their own healthcare, and provide a safety net for those who TRULY are struggling. I think it is often overlooked that people in the US who do not have healthcare, simply do not prioritize their spending to make it available for themselves. The US and Germany are like apples and oranges… very difficult to compare the two.

  • Paula

    Sorry to leave another comment, but I remembered a recent discussion I had with a relative who is a radiologist at a hospital in Erlangen, Bavaria. She said that because of the German health care system, and the low wages, as well as increased hours per shift for doctors and nurses, many qualified German personnel are leaving Germany to work in other countries with higher wages and more appealing work conditions. She too had considered a move to the US upon completion of her doctorate work, but decided to remain close to family. She says that in the average German hospital today, most incoming new physicians come from Eastern countries, and often speak little German. Germany has national health care, but in an effort to keep cost low they are loosing qualified health professionals. Doctors do not wish to work for half the pay they would receive in other countries while pulling 18-24 hour shifts, immediately followed by being on-call for another 8 hours, which only means you might as well stay at the hospital, since you will be called in due to short-staffing.

  • Gerhard

    Hi Christina,
    ten years ago I was diagnosted with Type 2 Diabetes. All I got was the help of a walk-in physician and once a month a call from a insurance guy asking me how I was doing. Now back, I have four doctors and a nutrionist taking care of me.
    Don’t get me wrong, they have great docters in the States, but they hard to find and even harder to accept new patience.
    What I really like are US dentists. Forget the guys in Germany, there butchers. My wife doeasn’t even visits german dentist, she always goes during vacation at home.

  • Silja

    I am German, currently living in the UK (since 5 years) and gosh do I miss the German Healthcare…

    over here the state of hospitals are appaling, the lack of care and lack of qualified staff is just plain terrifying and to see how people here are still stored in huge mix-sexed wards is just way out of time. I was three times in a hospital in Germany and felt always ok there. Over here I already have enough when at times I need to visit people in hospitals as it just is plain ugly and dirty in there. If you search online for words such as “NHS health care” then you find many articles like this one

    and even in a newsprogramme in 2006 they stated over here that waiting times and MRSA practically does not exist in Germany…for me healthcare over here is just terrifying and I am glad to get out of the UK once my studies are finished next year as I know that I don’t risk my life with ever giving birth over here…or being looked after from unqualified staff in a nursing home once I hit 120 years of age…

    Waiting times here up to 6 months are normal for a simple referral and you have no influence whatsoever which doctor you are going to see when you get referred.

    The UK health care system sucks big time and they would be glad when they would have such a great care accessible which we have in Germany…lucky only, they don’t even know what they missing out over here…

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