How to get health insurance in Austria
Austria is known for having an excellent health insurance system. The World Health Organisation ranks it as the ninth best in the world, with 99 per cent of residents being covered.
The country’s health service is organised by region, with the regional authorities (Gebietskrankenkassen) known as the GKK.
Social insurance in Austria is composed of health, pension and accident insurance. The country has 28 social insurance institutions, and these are statutory bodies under public law.
Health insurance is mandatory in Austria for those meeting certain criteria. These are:
- Those paid in employment
- People claiming unemployment benefit
- Those dependent on these groups
Anyone can seek voluntary cover for health insurance.
As soon as you start employment, you are automatically covered by insurance. This also extends to school and university students. Social insurance contributions are deducted by the employer and paid to the local tax office. Employers are also responsible for registering their employees with the relevant social insurance office. Employees will receive a social insurance number once they are registered.
Since 2005, e-cards have been issued which verify your coverage. These should be presented if you have need to visit a doctor.
European health insurance card in Austria
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) enables holders of the card to access state-provided healthcare at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free. It will cover you for treatment that is needed and will allow you to continue your stay in Austria until your planned return. A valid EHIC gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare in another country in the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes Switzerland.
The EHIC also covers you for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care, providing that the reason for your visit to the county isn’t specifically to give birth.
In most European countries, you can apply for or renew your EHIC online, free of charge. If any unofficial websites attempt to charge you, they are not genuine and should be treated as a scam.
It is important to note that the EHIC does not cover private health treatment, so you must ensure you are treated by a provider who has a contract with the GKK regional health insurance offices. Doctors who operate under the state system usually display signs saying Kassenarzt, which means ‘contracted doctor’, or alle Kassen, which means ‘all insurers’.
Health insurance for foreigners
Is health insurance mandatory in Austria?
Health insurance is mandatory in Austria. If you are staying in the country for a longer period (more than six months), you are considered a resident and you will have to pay contributions for medical care to one of the local insurance institutions (Sozialversicherungsträger). You will then receive an e-card that will give you access to free healthcare when living in Austria. You do not have to apply for the e-card as the health insurance institution will automatically send it to you. A full list of local insurance institutions can be found here.
If you are from a country that has a social insurance agreement with Austria, you will need to bring an A3 form for short stays (no longer than three month) and an A4 form for stays with a primary residents (Hauptwohnsitz).
Health insurance for EU citizens in Austria
Whilst the EHIC is freely available to citizens of member states of the EU/EEC (European Economic Community), it must be remembered that this is not a substitute for medical insurance. For stays of up to six months in Austria, travel health insurance is probably sufficient. For stays of more than six months, proof of having health insurance that covers “all risks” is advisable.
An EHIC makes all EU or EEA (including Switzerland) citizens eligible for free access to some health treatments whilst visiting Austria. This may be useful if you are a jobseeker travelling to the country to explore the possibility of living and working there.