Germany vs NZ: Healthcare

It’s been nearly 10 years now that I moved to NZ. And therefore nearly 10 years since my last tetanus vaccination which I had done just before I left.

Time to see my GP (‘Hausarzt”) here.

As opposed to Germany where you can just go to your GP without an appointment, it’s a must here to make an appointment. This might be different if it’s something really urgent, but otherwise you don’t stand a chance to get to see the doctor.

The next big difference is that upon arrival, you’re probably one of maybe 2 or 3 people in the waiting room. And no way you have a chance to read one of the magazines there. You’ve barely sat down and picked up a magazine when the doctor calls you to see you.

Yes you’ve heard it all right, there are literally no waiting times. Your appointment time IS the time you’ll see the doctor, give or take a couple of minutes.

So I got my booster shot done, plus a smear test which I was due for. Smear test at the GP???? you might think? Yes ALL basic healthcare is done by your GP, even the female stuff. And note that a smear test is only done every 2 years based on research that shows that doing it annually doesn’t deliver any additional benefits.

But the differences don’t stop here. When leaving, you don’t just walk out. Or if you did the nurse would come after you pretty quickly. Time to fork out the doctor’s fees which for my visit were $58 for my vaccination, $69 for the doctor plus $5 for materials he used.

Bill paid, I left with a lab request in hand for a routine blood test as I’m now approaching the ‘danger zone’  as he calls it being in my mid 40s.

You see, GPs don’t take blood samples here. For this purpose, there’s labs specialised in this. Off I went to the lab. Thankfully, blood tests are government funded so no need to dig out some dosh this time.

Maybe you wonder why I don’t just get health insurance to have it all paid for. in fact, I am insured, like around 30% of people in NZ. But when taking out insurance, you realise pretty quickly that the full package would be rather costly. So it’s best to tailor it to your situation and get cover for what’s really important: Diagnostics and surgical stuff.

Yes you can get access to all of this through the government funded public system. But there’s a problem here: Wait lists. Long wait lists. People dying off wait lists, or what started off as a problem having grown into a big problem by the time it’s your turn.

Hence me having taken out health insurance. But there’s another reason why I’ve not gone for the full monty. Even the most comprehensive package available here won’t give you the coverage that you get through what’s compulsory health insurance in Germany.

Germany has an absolutely top notch fantastic health insurance system. Something I wasn’t really aware of until I emigrated for the green NZ pastures.

I say it again. Germany is AWESOME when it comes to healthcare and health insurance. Think about it next time you’re about to complain…

What concerns medications, some are government subsidised i.e. cheaper whereas for others you pay the full commercial costs. This can be quite hard or even impossible for some people in particular those with serious or chronic diseases. Imagine you have to pay out of your own pocket for some medication that could make a real difference to you but it’s so new and/or expensive that you have to pay for it yourself.

Guess what happens. Some people do fund raising to scratch together the money they need for a particular treatment. No joke.

Let’s get back to medications. So your GP might have prescribed something and prescription in hand, you make your way to the next pharmacy. The pharmacist there will by no means give you a branded and labelled package of pills. What he does is put the pills the doctor prescribed into a little container or cardboard box, prints off a label including instructions how to take your medications, plus a copy of  the general information about the medication (‘Beipackzettel”).

You won’t get to see original packaging. Stuff is bought in bulk and then given to you in the amounts you need. Not more. No unneeded pills going into the bin.

In a nutshell, the system here works well if you have money. If you don’t there’s some challenges here that you wouldn’t have to worry about in Germany.

So if you’re in Germany, next time you find yourself stuck in a waiting room full of other people and still waiting to see the doctor despite the appointment you had made for what now is 2 hours ago, think again  (as you’ll have plenty of time in this situation anyway….). Yes the waiting times in Germany are really, really bad.

But all the rest is being taken care of  courtesy of your health insurance.


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