Medicine in Austria. Features of insurance, private hospitals and pharmacies



Medicine in Austria. Features of insurance, private hospitals and pharmacies

Choosing to live in Austria is a very good decision, as you will have access to a well-developed, stable, and high-quality healthcare system. With these high-quality public health services, you will receive adequate treatment even if you are unemployed.

Austrian health care has a reputation for excellence, with state-of-the-art equipment and easy access to specialists. Not surprisingly, high levels of health care don't come cheap, and in 2020 Austria spent 11.5 percent of its GDP on health care, according to the latest Statista data. 

Austria regularly ranks among the world's top ten countries for health care, including ranking ninth globally. Austria regularly ranks among the world's top ten countries for health care, including ninth in the World Health Organization (WHO) global ranking and fourth in the CEOWORLD health index ranking.

Illnesses and accidents are not on the list of things to consider when moving to a new country, but they do happen. Here is what you need to know if you fall ill in Austria and need medical care.

Read more about Austrian citizenship by investment, as well as the benefits, requirements and application procedure here.

The best places to visit in Austria: the main sights to see and do - find here.

European Health Insurance Card. Read here how to get preferential medical care in the EU countries.

How does the Austrian health system work

The Austrian health care system is mostly public with the possibility of private care. So, as long as you are legally residing in Austria and are a member of the social security system, you are entitled to health care - although this does not always mean that treatment or medication will be free.

Tourists and temporary residents can also get medical care if they fall ill in Austria, but they often have to pay a high price for treatment if they do not have insurance.

Health care in Austria is covered by social insurance, and registration is compulsory for everyone.

For most people, registration is automatic when they start work, and premiums are deducted from their monthly salary. This means that the cost is related to income, not to healthcare needs.

There is a separate social insurance system for the self-employed in which you must register when you become self-employed, but contributions are still mandatory and tied to income.

Social insurance in Austria

Social insurance is also available for co-insured persons, such as partners and children, as well as for people who cannot work, such as some students, pensioners, and recipients of unemployment benefits.

For some groups, such as foreign students who are not co-insured or provided by EU citizens, private insurance may be required in order to be insured during their stay in Austria.

What to do if you fall ill in Austria

If you fall ill and need to see a doctor, the first thing to do is to contact your general practitioner or family doctor (Hausarzt) and make an appointment. Be prepared with your name and contact details and a short reason for your visit. To find a doctor, you can use the website, which will tell you where the doctors are and which languages they speak.

For non-emergency care, you can also call the 1450 helpline for advice.

If you need more specialized treatment later on, such as a chiropractor or dermatologist, the doctor can refer you to a specialist in the field. In Austria, you can make an appointment directly with a specialist instead of waiting for a referral if you know what kind of help you need.

To get an appointment with a doctor, you usually need an electronic card or a social security number. If you don't have one, you may be treated as a private patient, which means higher fees.

E-card of medicine in Austria

The E-card is Austria's electronic health card, which is issued to all socially insured persons. It is available online and has an electronic chip that is linked to an online database and includes information about health insurance, accident insurance, pension insurance, and unemployment insurance.

1. The cards, issued beginning Jan. 1, 2020, also include a photo of the insured.

2. The electronic card is used by doctors to determine whether a patient is covered by insurance and which provider will pay the cost of treatment.

3. A doctor's appointment is also required for sick leave in Austria, regardless of the length of time off work. This means that people have to go to the doctor even if they have a cold or flu.

4. Note that not all doctors accept all types of insurance. Again, you can use the website to find a doctor who accepts your insurance or search for the term alle Kassen (all insurance companies).

It should be emphasized that there is no shortage of doctors in Austria because WHO data show that there are 52 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants. By comparison, there are 26 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants in the United States.

Peculiarities of medical services in Austria

It is also useful to know that in Austria it is customary to undergo annual checkups even if you do not have any special health problems. They are free, and if you are self-employed, you can get a free medical checkup, which allows you to reduce your social security contributions if you achieve certain health goals, such as maintaining a healthy weight.

In the case of an illness beyond the employee's control, the employer continues to pay the employee's wages for a certain period of time, depending on the employee's length of service and type of employment contract. After that period, the sick worker receives sick pay from the sickness insurance fund, but the amount is less than his wages.

Even as an expatriate you will participate in the Austrian healthcare system, which means that you are entitled to benefits. These benefits even apply to children and employees, with children being covered up to the age of 28. 

If you have recently arrived in this country, you need to register with the health system soon after your arrival through your local health district. This is because the health care system is run locally, not nationally. You will then receive an electronic card, which you must present when you receive treatment or medication through the government system. This card serves as a digital medical record so that any treatment can be easily tracked. Pensioners, children, and dependents as well as the self-employed and unemployed must also be covered by the public system.

Private health insurance in Austria

Some people also prefer to take out private health insurance to compensate for the care provided by the public system, even if it is not necessary. Private health insurance makes it possible to shorten waiting times for medical care and gain access to private hospitals. It is used, for example, to get a private room instead of a shared room at a hospital. Feel free to contact the insurer of your choice for your needs. You can also get a free quote on our page.

Emergency services in Austria

To contact emergency services in Austria, dial 144. Ambulance workers usually speak German, but usually understand English as well.

Responsibility for health care is divided between the federal and regional (Länder) levels, with the central level delegating many responsibilities to local authorities. The Austrian system is characterized by a mixed funding model, in which the state and social health insurance contribute almost equally.

Health care in Austria is based on the social insurance system, which guarantees all residents equal access to high-quality medical services, regardless of age, gender, origin, social status, or income. All insured persons are entitled to a wide range of benefits:

  • Primary medical care by doctors licensed by the Austrian Social Health Insurance Fund
  • Emergency and specialized care, outpatient and inpatient care, including maternity care
  • Psychotherapy,
  • Medical or laboratory examinations,
  • Rehabilitation, occupational therapy, speech therapy or physiotherapy,
  • Dental care,
  • Prescription drugs,
  • Supply of medical devices or equipment,
  • Ambulance transportation,
  • Home care,
  • Access to preventive and health promotion services, including immunizations or screening tests,
  • Rehabilitation and long-term care services,
  • Care for people with disabilities.

For more information about the welfare system and its funding, as well as reimbursement for care, visit the Cleiss website.

Hospital care

Hospital care (including outpatient care) is primarily the responsibility of the regions. Hospital care is mainly organized by public authorities or private non-profit institutions (religious associations).

Socially insured persons are free to choose public hospitals, as long as this does not lead to additional costs, but in principle, a prescription from a general practitioner or specialist is required to visit these hospitals. For inpatient treatment involving a hospital stay, there are:

Conventional hospitals offer a wide range of services, at least in internal medicine and general surgery;

Specialized hospitals (orthopedic surgery, psychiatry, pediatric medicine, or rehabilitation care);

Modern hospitals, such as teaching hospitals include all disciplines, including highly specialized care;

Care centers for chronically ill patients who require extraordinary medical and special care.

Pharmacies in Austria

Austrian pharmacies are called "Apotheke". You can find them in most towns and villages. They offer prescription and non-prescription medicines as well as basic first aid supplies. Prescription drugs are strictly regulated in Austria, so make sure you have all the necessary prescriptions when you move to the country. When paying for prescriptions, a small fee is required to offset the cost.

On weekends and even at night, it is not difficult to find at least one open pharmacy in your area. You can find more information on the Apo24 website.

Products from Visit World for a comfortable trip:

Checklist for obtaining a visa and necessary documents in Austria;

Legal advice on businesstourismmedicineimmigrationeducation in Austria;

Travel and health insurance for foreigners in Austria;

Insurance for foreign students in Austria.

More articles on the topic: 

Austrian tax system: a simple guide for expats.