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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My First Experience with German Public Healthcare

Although I have been living in Germany for well over a year now, I had never actually gotten German health insurance. This all changed when I started my Master's in Germany, however, as being enrolled in a German university made me eligible for public health insurance.


Since I have Type 1 Diabetes, a chronic disease that could easily eat up a couple hundred dollars a month in medication and doctor's visits while I was living in the U.S. (and that's with private insurance), I was very excited about enrolling in German public health insurance.

Although I signed up in October, I didn't actually take advantage of what I was paying 78€ per month for until my first doctor appointment in December.

Once the day came, I was thrilled to walk into the office, hand the secretary my health insurance card, and head back to the waiting room. No talk of money at all, because nobody pays for doctor's visits (of course there are exceptions to this rule, but in general, doctor's visits are paid in full).

I then sat in the waiting room listening to the doctor call each of the patients' names.

"Frau Riemenschneider!"

"Herr Müller!"

"Frau Kalbfleish!"

...

"Mrs. Martin!"

Ahh, yes. Since the German boyfriend sees the same doctor, he had told him a few weeks prior that his American girlfriend had an appointment coming up. So, the doctor thought it was hilarious to call me "missus." I guess I can't complain too much though. At least he didn't call me Mr. Courtney like so many other Germans do.

The doctor's appointment itself started off pretty standard, with the doctor asking questions about my history and showing me my blood work (which I got done a week prior, and I didn't have to pay for).

What shocked me most was when the doctor abruptly said, "I would like to do an ultrasound. Can you lay down over here?"

An ultrasound? Don't we need to schedule that for a separate day? Won't that cost a lot of extra money? Oh yeah, these are all things that the Germans don't think about.

So, I laid down and had a quick ultrasound. No biggie.

German prescription forms (red is for public health insurance)

Overall, the appointment went great, and I walked out with a handful of prescriptions that needed to be filled ASAP. So, on the way home I stopped by the pharmacy.

Oh, and when I said I had a handful of prescriptions, I wasn't kidding. I still have the receipt that shows that I handed over 6 that day, and you can see from the photo above that I am still holding onto three more, which I will fill via an online pharmacy.

When I went to the pharmacy that day, however, I was watching the monitor anxiously as the total steadily rose. But to my surprise, it was only going up by increments of five, and at the end, my total was only 32.07 Euro

part of my receipt from the pharmacy
"Only 30 Euro for all that?!" I was thinking as I handed over my debit card.

So, I was quite surprised when Marco whispered to me, "I am sorry it costs so much. I can help pay for it, if you want."

What?! Are you kidding me? I just paid 10€ for over 3 months of insulin! I've got no problem with that!

Since the receipt included the list price of each of the medications, I figured I would add that up just to see how great my German health insurance is. The result? 627.15€

Let's do that math:
32.07 / 627.15 = 0.05

That means my insurance covered 95% of the costs of my medication! I realize that Europeans are probably super bored reading this post, but this is a big deal for us Americans, especially for those unlucky Americans that have chronic diseases.

GO PUBLIC HEALTHCARE!

12 comments:

  1. We have the same Krankenkasse :-)

    My boyfriend has type 1 diabetes. He told me once what he pays per year for medical supplies but I'm an idiot so I forgot ;-)

    I pay roughly the same amount for 6 months of the pill as you do for your insulin. I actually get annoyed about paying for the pill because in the UK all contraception is free. Americans look at me like I'm mad when I complain about the 30 euros.

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  2. Woohoo TK!


    Cool, a fellow type 1 diabetic :) In the U.S., I easily paid at least $200 per month for my insulin and test strips and such. So, I am thrilled with what I am paying so far here. The Krankenkasse also wants me to get a new insulin pump since mine is 5 years old, and that will be free too!! In the U.S., I had to pay $1,000 for it!


    Is the percentage that people in the UK and Germans have to pay for health insurance from their income about the same?

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  3. I paid $140 (€121) for 3 months of pills in the U.S., and like Bev, I pay about €30 for the same here. I tore a groin muscle about a year ago and (because there was no explanation for the pain) had an ER visit, x-rays, an MRI, and multiple doctor visits. Bill: €0 ZERO! I would have paid _thousands_ of dollars in the U.S. for all that. I know the system isn't perfect, but count this as one reason I'll never move back to the U.S..

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  4. In the UK; you don't have specific health insurance. The NHS is paid for through taxes but it's just the general taxes. There isn't a bit on your wage slip that says "medical insurance" like here, so I'm not sure exactly what percentage you pay. Also, we don't have "health insurance" as such - you are automatically in the NHS from birth. Private insurance exists and rich people buy it, otherwise you're just automatically in the NHS without having to register for health insurance. Usually you register with a local doctor, but that's it.

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  5. I didn't know that, but it's really interesting. From your experience, which system works better?

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  6. As long as he is enrolled in a German university, then he should be able to get public health insurance. Once he has proof of enrollment, all he has to do is call or visit one of the public health insurance providers such as TK, AOK, etc.

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  7. Wow that is amazing! My sister is type one diabetic so I know all about how expensive insulin and all the supplies is in the US. This is just another reason that she needs to move over to Europe with me:)

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  8. Exactly! Although I did have to pay €10 for 3 months of insulin (boohoo), test strips and pump supplies are COMPLETELY FREE!

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  9. I can totally relate to this post right about now. I was in German hospital for 4 days last week and have had countless numbers of tests and scans done and absolutely no talk of money - ever! Just hand over that magic little TK card and everything is taken care of. Really loving social healthcare these days as well :)

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  10. That little TK card is like magic, isn't it? After writing this post, I ordered over 700€ of medical supplies online and didn't pay a dime!

    Sorry that you had to stay in the hospital (hope you are doing better now) but at least you also don't have a bill to keep reminding you of that time!

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  11. Amen to that! Isn't it just amazing?

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