Who can access care and when?

If you are a refugee, medical care would be limited to urgent needs within the first 15 months after your arrival in Germany. This means you can benefit from basic medical cares like vaccinations as well as treatments for pain-inducing and acute illness. Based on the law, necessary medication and wound dressing materials are provided free of charge.

Pregnant women have access to standard pre- and postnatal care and attention, including the assisstance of a midwife, all necessary medications and wound dressing materials.

Children and youth are under a special protection. They go under routine check-ups to ensure their healthy development. 

At initial accommodation facilities (EAE)

After your arrival in Germany, you will be first housed at initial accomodation facilities (EAE). Preliminary medical examinations are generally performed here and medical care is provided free of charge for acute health issues. You can talk to to a healthcare professional on site if you feel ill.

Doctors are on call at most initial accomodation facilities. You can also go outside the EAE for treatment of your acute illnesses. This requires a treatment certificate (see exceptions below), which is obtained at the EAE and must be shown to the doctor during your appointment. Authorities grant medical care and specify the kind provided.

Authorities on site may recommend a doctor who speaks your language skills or provide an interpreter. You are not responsible for the relevant costs. The costs of treatment will be taken over by the social assistance institution (Sozialhilfeträger), which is the institution responsible for social assistance.

At communal accommodations

If you are post-EAE and live in shared accommodations or your own apartment, it is your local social services office (Sozialamt) that provides the treatment certificate, which is valid for three months. A new certificate must be granted at the end of this time period.

This certificate enables you to benefit from free medical care. You are entitled to choose your own general doctor who may treat you or refer you to a specialist. In some cases, this must first be authorized by the social services office. The cost of treatment for long-term, chronic illnesses would not be covered– but acute conditions are treated at no cost. Medication prescribed by your doctor is in most cases available at a pharmacy.

Regulations of free care are decided differently in various states and municipalities,as federal law on this matter is rather vague. You should, therefore, always ask for clarification.

The emergency number in Germany is 112. You can call this number in the event of an emergency or go to a hospital emergency room directly (note that emergency rooms are often over-crowded and have long waiting times). Additional emergency numbers are provided by the German pharmacies website.

Doctors are bound by confidentiality in Germany. They cannot share information about you without your consent.

Where can I get the health insurance card?

Those in the federal states of Bremen/Bremerhaven, Hamburg, Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein and Nordrhein-Westfalen receive a special electronic insurance card that allows them to go directly to general practitioners. Patients do not pay for a normal doctor visit; and the costs are taken care of by the healthcare system.

This type of system does not yet exist in other states. The governments of Bavaria and Saxony still use the old treatment certificate for the refugees who need to visit a doctor. Your local counselling services can provide you with more information.

A public health insurance card is available after 15 months of residence in Germany. You receive a general health insurance card with the same medical benefits as all others in Germany and normal visits to doctor would remain free of charge for you.

Communication at the doctor's office

Basic body parts and medical vocabulary is available here for you to use when going to your appointment. 

A form containing the most important questions regarding your doctor visit can be found here in several languages.

Essential information on physical, general and sexual health is available at the Federal Centre for Health Education (Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung): www.zanzu.de

The Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (Kassenärztliche Vereinigung des Bundeslandes) can assist in the case your doctor does not speak your language. Contact information for doctors is available. here: www.kbv.de/html/arztsuche.php.

The medical association (Ärztekammer), present in every state, can also provide assistance, offering lists of bilingual doctors and a search engine for medical professionals.

The nationwide initiative, refconnect, connects newcomers and language mediators who can accompany you to medical practices and help you and your doctor understand one another: www.refconnect.de/de/.

How is trauma treated?

As a refugeee, you might have gone through traumatic experiences. Whenever possible, speak with social services at your EAE about your problems. A variety of options exist to help you with the trauma. More information is available at the Federal Association of Psychosocial Centers for Refugees and Victims of Torture (BafF, Bundesweiten Arbeitsgemeinschaft der psychosozialen Zentren für Flüchtlinge und Folteropfer).