Healthcare Basics

The healthcare system in Austria

We explain all you need to know about healthcare in Austria, including an overview of the healthcare system, health insurance, costs, and more.

A sign for a chemist or pharmacy underneath a clock outside a building

Updated 19-4-2024

No matter where you are moving to, healthcare is a major priority. Fortunately for expats relocating to Austria, the country’s healthcare is excellent, affordable, and accessible. In fact, healthcare in Austria is renowned throughout Europe and the world for its high quality and universality. Covering nearly 100% of the population, it is broad and far-reaching; in fact, your biggest concern will likely be making sure someone at your doctor’s office speaks English.

Navigate the healthcare system in Austria with the following:

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Overview of Austria’s healthcare system

The healthcare system in Austria

Healthcare in Austria is primarily public, with the option to obtain private health insurance. Overseen by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care, and Consumer Protection, most people access public health insurance by paying a portion of their salary. However, for those with low or no income, healthcare is free. Overall, the healthcare provided is affordable, accessible, and of a very high standard.

A woman visiting her doctor

Who can access healthcare in Austria?

Healthcare in Austria is accessible to everyone within its borders. Therefore, healthcare is universal for all legal residents, no matter their age or income bracket. Tourists and temporary visitors can access Austria healthcare, however, they may pay full price. As always, it’s a good idea to have travel insurance when visiting a new country. Companies like World Nomads offer simple and flexible travel insurance policies. You can buy these at home or on the road; therefore, it’s worth looking into.

The cost of healthcare in Austria

The Austrian government prioritizes healthcare and actually spent 10.43% of its GDP on healthcare in 2019. The Austrian healthcare scheme receives funding via the social insurance system, through both employee and employer contributions. For low-earners, however, or for those with no income, healthcare is available free of charge. That said, there may be some small costs for medications and the like. For more information about this, read our guide to social security in Austria.

Health insurance in Austria

Public health insurance in Austria is widespread and covers most people. Specifically, wage-earners making over a certain amount have a portion of their salary automatically deducted for healthcare, a pension, and accident insurance. Your employer also makes a contribution to match yours. Additionally, healthcare is free of charge for people who make under a certain amount, or who are disabled, studying, or retired.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is available to residents of the EU. This allows you to access state-provided healthcare in any of the 27 EU countries. So, for example, an Italian person visiting Austria would be able to access the same public healthcare (including any lower costs) as a native Austrian. However, it’s important to keep in mind that services or prescriptions that are free in one country might not be free in other countries, so be sure to do your research.

European Health Insurance Card (EIHC)

For more information, read our article about the EHIC: European Health Insurance Card explained.

How to register for Austria healthcare as an expat

Registering for healthcare in Austria is incredibly easy: you just have to get employed and your monthly payments will be automatically deducted. Once you get a job, your employer is responsible for enrolling you in public health insurance.

After you register, your health insurance company will mail you an E-Card that keeps track of your claims, medications, and medical histories. You should take this with you to any medical appointments. Essentially, this is your health insurance card.

Private healthcare in Austria

Private healthcare in Austria is available for those who either cannot or would rather not use public healthcare. Generally, private healthcare means no waiting times, wider physician choice, and the choice of public or private clinics and hospitals. Although the quality of care does not vary hugely, the comfort of care might.

Woman researching health insurance options

For example, with private insurance, you can ensure that you have a private or a double hospital room, instead of sharing a room with several other people. Most people who have private insurance use it as a supplement to public insurance.

Private health insurance providers

There are many private health insurance providers in Austria, all of which are regulated by the Financial Market Authority. The leading groups are Allianz Care and Cigna Global. Both offer a range of plans to suit all people and situations. Generally, the older you are the more you will pay. For example, a plan for children below 18 could cost around €30 per month. However, the same plan for someone above 65 may cost as much as €450 to €500 per month. Additional factors include both gender and pre-existing conditions. 

For more information, read our guide to getting health insurance in Austria which explains how to choose the best policy for you.

Signing up for private health insurance

To sign up for private health insurance, you should do your research and find the best company and policy for your needs. Then, you’ll need to follow their individual process for signing up. Depending on the insurance policy, some clinics won’t charge you fees; some, however, will ask you to pay, submit your receipts, and then get a reimbursement. Be sure to do your homework and understand the process of getting, and paying for, medical care.

Doctors and specialists in Austria

Austria healthcare is renowned across Europe and the world for having top-notch doctors and hospitals. In fact, Austria is one of the few countries that isn’t experiencing a doctor shortage, with 51 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants. Comparatively, the USA has 26 doctors per 10,000. On the whole, most of your healthcare in Austria will go through your General Physician (GP). Additionally, if you need to see a specialist or get hospital treatment, they would likely be the one to provide a referral.

eye doctor

For more information, read our guide to doctors in Austria.

Women’s healthcare in Austria

Your options in Austria for gynecology are vast, and the quality is generally excellent. Routine visits are covered within insurance plans and if you need to see a specialist, your doctor will refer you. Throughout the country, maternal mortality rates are low and semi-annual gynecological visits are the norm. In fact, expectant mothers must have at least five pre-birth doctor visits, a midwife consultation, and an internal check-up.

On the whole, the women’s healthcare system is efficient, accessible, and high-quality. Some clinics are stand-alone, while some operate within bigger hospitals. To find a gynecologist, you can ask your GP for a recommendation, or read up on online reviews.

Children’s healthcare in Austria

Children’s healthcare in Austria is routed through General Physicians and General Pediatricians who have a long-term relationship with the child. However, for more serious issues, your doctor may refer you to one of Austria’s 43 children’s hospitals or to the bigger university hospitals.

Doctor performing a checkup on a young girl

The good news is that whether your child needs help with a common cold or something more serious, they will be in good hands.

Dentists in Austria

Dental health is extremely important, and you’ll have plenty of options for good dentists in Austria. However, if you need a dentist that speaks English or your native language, they’ll probably be clustered around major cities like Vienna and may be quite popular. It’s a good idea to do your research and get referrals from trusted friends and medical providers. Keep in mind, however, that all dentists must be registered with the Austrian Dental Chamber, so make sure that yours is. Social insurance will cover some dental procedures, but the rest is the responsibility of the patient. You can read more about this in our guide to dentists in Austria.

Hospitals in Austria

Austria has many hospitals that offer routine treatments and more specialized care. In fact, although the country is less than 1% of the size of the United States, it had 268 hospitals in 2021. Of course, bigger more specialized hospitals are located in the more cosmopolitan cities. That said, the country is small enough that good medical care is never far away. You might want to brush up on some of your medical German, though, because the farther you get from a city, the less English is spoken. For more information, read our guide to hospitals in Austria.

Health centers and clinics in Austria

Outside of your GP office, and major hospitals, you’ll find outpatient clinics that offer anything from physical therapy to orthodontics, and nutrition to osteopathy. Generally, your doctor can advise you on the best route to go. Keep in mind, however, that your insurance may or may not fully cover the treatments you are seeking. Therefore, be sure to do your research to understand what coverage you are entitled to.

Pharmacies in Austria

Fortunately, you won’t have any trouble finding a pharmacy, or Apotheke, in Austria – they seem to be on every corner. Here you’ll find some over-the-counter medication such as basic painkillers, as well as restricted medication. Once your doctor writes you a prescription or Rezept, you can take it to any pharmacy to get it filled. Then, if you have public insurance, you’ll need to pay a small fee (usually around €6); generally, with private insurance, you can get reimbursed for that fee.

A pharmacy in Vienna

The hours of operation vary, however, you can usually find a late-night pharmacy in your neighborhood. To find your local pharmacy, try using this tool from the Austrian Chamber of Pharmacists.

Mental healthcare in Austria

If you’re looking to take care of your mental health in Austria, you have a few options. For those with more serious or recurring mental health challenges, there are day treatment and community residential facilities, as well as behavioral health wards in hospitals. Primary care physicians are allowed to prescribe psychiatric medications for many disorders, so be sure to start your search there.

Man at an appointment with his psychiatrist

For those looking for psychotherapy, you’ll need to find a registered psychotherapist in your city. Unfortunately, although there is some reimbursement for therapy, most of the cost is charged to the patient. Additionally, you’ll need to make sure you find someone who speaks your language. Therefore, be sure to ask around in expat circles for recommendations.

Other forms of healthcare available in Austria

If you are looking for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), such as acupuncture, homeopathy, or herbology, you have a few options because the field is growing in Austria. In fact, more and more doctors are choosing to train in CAM so that they can provide their patients with the best of both worlds. Therefore, if you are looking to try a certain alternative medicine, start by asking your GP if they practice alternative medicine, or if they can recommend someone who does. Otherwise, feel free to ask around in your expat circles.

What to do in an emergency in Austria

If you find yourself in an emergency, the most important thing to do is to stay calm. Assess the situation, get out your phone, and dial the appropriate emergency number. Specifically, if you need the police, dial 133; for an ambulance, dial 144; and, for the fire department, dial 122. Otherwise, if you are too flustered to remember the specifics, dial the Europe-wide emergency number: 112. For more information, read our guide to emergency numbers in Austria.