We review the differences between public and private health insurance in Austria and how to apply for both.
The logistics of moving abroad can seem overwhelming. But thankfully, if you are moving to Austria, health insurance is one thing you can easily check off your to-do-list. Just as the healthcare system in Austria is affordable and accessible, health insurance is also easy to arrange and access. To help you navigate it, this guide provides the following information:
- The healthcare system and health insurance in Austria
- Who needs health insurance in Austria?
- Who does public health insurance cover?
- What does public health insurance in Austria cover?
- How to apply for public health insurance in Austria
- Private health insurance in Austria
- Health insurance costs and reimbursements
- Health insurance for low earners or the unemployed
The healthcare system and health insurance in Austria
Health insurance in Austria is universal and legal residents have the option of getting public or private health insurance. In fact, some people choose to have both. Overall, health insurance in Austria is highly developed and inclusive. For those with low or no income, healthcare is also free. For more information about this, read our Guide to social security in Austria.
Who needs health insurance in Austria?
Everyone who is residing within Austria’s borders must have health insurance. So, whether you are a tourist, a student, a stay-at-home parent, or working, you need insurance. In fact, for many nationalities, you can’t even get specific visas without having proof of health insurance.
What happens if I am not covered by health insurance in Austria?
If you are not covered by health insurance and you need medical care, you can (and should) see a doctor. Be advised, though, that you may get stuck with a fat medical bill. Healthcare in Austria is excellent – but it isn’t cheap. That said, Austria is a big medical tourism destination; therefore, if you’re looking for high-quality treatment and can afford to pay out-of-pocket, it’s a good choice.
Who does public health insurance cover?
Expats need health insurance coverage from the moment they enter Austria, whether that insurance is public or private. That is how the country has come to have 99% of its population covered by health insurance. Generally, public health insurance covers most people in Austria, however, there are some more specifics, as follows:
Expats working in Austria are eligible for public health insurance. In fact, employers are responsible for enrolling their staff in public health insurance. Those making over a certain amount have a portion of their salary automatically deducted for healthcare; as well as 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; as well as those who are disabled, studying, or retired. You can find more information about this in our Guide to social security in Austria.
Self-employed, freelancers, and business owners
Fortunately, most people who are self-employed or freelancing are covered by public health insurance. You can read more about this in our Guide to becoming a freelancer or self-employed in Austria.
Spouses and children
Children and spouses of expats working in Austria have access to public health insurance. In fact, they will just need to be included in the enrollment of the working family member. You can read more about this in our Guide to children’s healthcare in Austria.
Unfortunately, students from outside the EU, often called third-country nationals, don’t have immediate access to public health insurance in Austria. In fact, to get a study visa, non-EU students must provide proof of health or travel insurance that will cover them for their stay in Austria. 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.
Pensioners/retirees and non-workers
If you are living in Austria and receiving a pension, then you have access to public health insurance. Additionally, if you are a non-working spouse, you would be included in their health insurance enrollment. The same applies if you are dependent on someone working in Austria. You can find more information about this in our Guide to pensions in Austria and Guide to retiring in Austria.
All students, workers, and travelers from within the European Union may access public healthcare. They can do so by using their European Health Insurance Card (EIHC). This grants you access to the same healthcare and costs as a local Austrian.
Short-term visitors and tourists
Tourists and visitors to Austria must have health or travel insurance that covers them for their entire visit. While some countries require this documentation to even get a visa, others do not. Keep in mind, however, that without insurance you may be stuck paying the full medical bill.
What does public health insurance in Austria cover?
Doctors and medical specialists
In Austria, public health insurance will cover all medical costs related to check-ups and treatments. If you go to a doctor who doesn’t accept federal health insurance, however, you may have to pay up-front. Usually, though, you can get up to 80% of the cost reimbursed later. For more information, check out our Guide to doctors and specialists in Austria.
Hospital visits are covered under public health insurance. That said, you may need to pay a deductible amount yourself before your insurance provider pays any expenses. Additionally, depending on the hospital you visit, you may have a fee for every day that you remain there. For example, the hospital fee for the Vienna Health Group is around €12. For more information, read our Guide to hospitals in Austria.
If you need emergency medical attention, you should go to your nearest emergency room straight away. Fortunately, public health insurance will cover any treatment you receive. It’s also wise to familiarize yourself with the emergency numbers and services in Austria in case you need urgent help.
Prescriptions and medication
Public health insurance covers prescription medication in Austria, however, there is a small fee you have to pay. Currently, the fee is €6.30.
Austrian public health insurance covers mental healthcare. That said, there are some fields, such as psychotherapy, where reimbursement rates are quite low. However, for more acute care, like in-patient care in a hospital, insurance will cover most, if not all, treatment. Therefore, be sure to research your specific insurance carrier for coverage rates.
Maternity care, including pre-birth check-ups, birth, and postpartum care, is all covered by public health insurance in Austria. You can find more information about this in our Guide to having a baby in Austria.
In Austria, public insurance includes dental care, however, the particulars of dental care coverage vary. Generally, this covers cleanings and fillings, but you should check with your insurance carrier to confirm this first. You can read more about this in our Guide to dentists in Austria.
In Austria, public health insurance includes eye care, but your insurance company might have its own definition of necessary care. Therefore, you may end up having a higher co-payment for your glasses. With this in mind, be sure to verify the particulars with your insurance company first. That way, you can avoid any unforeseen costs further down the line.
In Austria, public insurance covers sexual health, including testing and treatment. In fact, it usually goes through your General Physician or through school awareness campaigns.
In Austria, vaccinations for children up to 15 years old are free and included in public health insurance. Conveniently, schools usually organize this. Those older than 15, or those looking to get travel vaccinations, however, will have to check their individual insurance policy.
Alternative and complementary therapies
Complementary and Alternative medicine (CAM) is a growing field in Austria. In fact, more and more doctors are incorporating it into their practice. Therefore, if your General Physician practices CAM, it is likely that it will be covered by your public health insurance. However, if you need to seek a specialist, you should consult your individual insurance policy first.
If you have an Austrian E-Card, you will be able to access public health insurance within EU countries. This is because your European Health Insurance Card is on the back of your E-Card. For countries outside of the EU, however, you should make sure to get travel insurance to protect you while abroad.
How to apply for public health insurance in Austria
As an expat, public health insurance is tied to employment. Conveniently, if you are employed in Austria, your employer is in charge of enrollment. If you are a spouse of someone employed in Austria, the employer will include you in their employee’s enrollment. The same applies if you are a dependent minor. If there is any additional paperwork needed, the employer will let you know.
Choosing policy additions
While you don’t get to choose your insurance provider, you can choose any specific policy additions, such as physical therapy. Keep in mind, though, that you may need to pay additional fees. Once you are enrolled, your insurance company will mail you your E-Card, which has an annual charge of €11.95. This is your insurance card and you should take it with you to any medical appointments.
Private health insurance in Austria
Who should get private health insurance in Austria?
There are no statistics on exactly how many people have private health insurance in Austria. However, anyone living in Austria can take out private health insurance. In fact, students and temporary visitors from outside of the EU often have private health or travel insurance. This is because they might not have access to public health insurance. You can visit our Health insurance quotes page for more information.
The advantages of getting private health insurance coverage in Austria
Private insurance is useful because it gives you access to shorter waiting times. You can also access a wider network of doctors and private hospitals. You can also access ‘special’ (i.e. fancier) wards in hospitals, as well as cost-free medication, glasses, contact lenses, and more. Many people use private insurance as a supplement to public health insurance because the quality of care isn’t much different.
How does private health insurance work?
Like public insurance companies, private insurance carriers are under the oversight of the Financial Market Authority in Austria. Private health insurance can be pricey, depending on your age and pre-existing conditions. In fact, for older, or sicker, people, private health insurance can cost several hundred euros a month.
Making an insurance claim
The claim reimbursement process varies according to the insurance company. That said, private insurance companies are trying to justify paying them instead of just going with public health insurance; therefore, the clinic often receives direct payment. The reimbursement process remains very simple, however.
How to choose a health insurance provider
There are many private health insurance providers in Austria, all of which 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.
There are some important things to keep in mind when choosing your insurance policy. This applies if you are getting public health insurance or choosing your provider and policy (if you are getting private):
- What are your non-negotiable healthcare needs? Does your policy or provider meet them?
- Are there set-term contracts, or can you change providers at any time?
- Are there deductibles or co-payments you would be responsible for?
- Is the claims process simple and straightforward?
- Does the provider have customer service agents that speak your language?
Health insurance costs and reimbursements
If you have public health insurance, your monthly contribution will be taken out of your salary before you receive it; this is 18.12% in 2020. Your employer, meanwhile, will contribute a portion of your salary as well; this is 21.32% in 2020. For students and the retired, disabled, or unemployed, there may not be a monthly fee; this depends on their income amount. For some healthcare costs, such as therapy or vision, you may have to pay up-front and get reimbursed later. Reimbursement procedures and timelines vary across insurance companies, so be sure to research them first.
Health insurance for low earners or the unemployed
Unemployed and low-earning people are covered by public health insurance in Austria, with no monthly payment required. Low-income families may also access benefits such as child-care allowances, housing support, tax credits, and the like. Eligibility and application processes will depend on your particular situation, however. For more information, visit this government website.