Everything expats need to know about Austrian healthcare

Hallo and guten tag! Fantastic news that you've decided to start a new life in Austria. A wonderful world of wiener schnitzel and Mozart awaits you.

Everything expats need to know about Austrian healthcare
Photo: michaeljung/Depositphotos

But before you find the nearest mountain and start belting out The Hills are Alive, you should learn how the Austrian healthcare system works. After all, you want your lungs in prime condition to hit those high notes.

Registering for healthcare

Those of you moving to Austria for work will have access to the country’s excellent public healthcare system. Hurra!

Each month a contribution will be taken from your tax payment, which is worked out according to how much you earn. This gives you access to basic healthcare including treatment in hospitals, medication, dental care, and some specialist appointments.

Before you receive healthcare your employer will have to register you with the Gebietskrankenkasse, the district health insurance fund, within your first week at work. Your employer is required to match your contribution.

Private contractors also have to register for social insurance through Sozialversicherung der gewerblichen Witschaft (Social Insurance for the Industrial Economy).

Children are automatically covered by their parents’ insurance until they are 21 years old, as are university students until they reach 26 years old.

Once you’re registered, you’ll get a green e-card – your electronic key to public healthcare. If you’re moving with your family, each member will need an e-card for access to healthcare.

It contains some personal information, as well as details about making a claim. The Austrian government uses the card to process claims electronically, which means fewer queues and less admin.

If you’re moving to Austria but currently don’t have a job lined up, you should look into private health insurance to make sure you’re covered.

Providers like Cigna Global offer flexible packages for expats that will cover you if the unexpected were to happen. And what’s more, you’ll get access to shorter waiting times and more services.

Find out more about Cigna Global health insurance

Finding a doctor

Your public health insurance will allow you to visit most doctors in Austria. To find an English-speaking doctor you can call your regional medical association which can advise you on your local medical services.

Your embassy may also maintain a list of English-speaking doctors, this can usually be found on their website. If it’s not there, just give them a call and they should be able to help.

Some councils, like the Vienna City Council, also have a website with a search feature that allows you to look up local doctors by expertise, location, opening times, and languages spoken.

Whenever you see a doctor you’re advised to make an appointment, or termin, as waiting times can be fairly long. If it’s urgent you can show up without an appointment, although take a book because you may be in for a wait.

Regular surgery hours differ, although most are open during the mornings and closed some afternoons. Bear in mind they rarely open on weekends.

Make sure to take along your e-card with you whenever you visit a doctor. By reading the card the surgery will be able to check your insurance status via the health information network, and find out which health insurance institution has to pay for your treatment. It’s all very streamlined and convenient.

Emergency care

If there’s an emergency and you need urgent treatment, don’t worry about whether or not you’re insured. Austrian law requires that people are treated whether they are covered or not; however, be aware you may be charged afterwards so it’s always better to have insurance, public or private.

In the event of hospitalisation, you will be required to pay a certain amount for each day spent in hospital.

If it’s urgent and you can’t get to the emergency room then you should dial the Europe-wide emergency number 112. Response times are mostly good throughout Austria; paramedics generally speak Austrian German although occasionally understand English. So you’d do well to learn a few basic phrases in case of emergency!

Hospitals are also connected to the e-card system, so remember to take it along to any visits. Using the Insured Data Query Service the hospital can get information online from your e-card about your insurance status which speeds up the administration process and maintains a higher level of quality for both patients and hospital workers.

Specialist care

Unlike some other European countries, doctors don’t act as gatekeepers to specialist care in Austria. That means if you want to see a specialist straight away, you can seek one out and make the appointment yourself.

Something to remember: not all specialist care is covered by your public health insurance, and some forms of treatment and examinations do require a referral.

With Cigna Global’s international health insurance you get access to a global network of hospitals, clinics, and doctors so you’re always covered if you or your family needs to see a specialist – no matter the cause.

Get a quote for international health insurance from Cigna Global


Pharmacies, or apotheke, can be found all over Austrian towns and cities. A word of caution: don’t confuse them with drugstores, drogerie, where you’ll only be able to buy toiletries. So unless you’re in need of emergency deodorant, it’s the apotheke you should look out for!

You should know that some medicines you may be able to get over the counter in your home country could require a prescription, or rezept, in Austria. That’s because prescription laws are very strict; however, some painkillers are still available so don’t rush off to the doctor when you feel a tension headache coming on!  

Most of the cost of prescription medicines is covered by your state health insurance, although you will have to pay a charge of €5.85 per item.

Paying for it

Although Austrian public health insurance covers many appointments, treatments, and procedures, private healthcare gives you access to higher standards of care, reduced waiting times, and most of all, peace of mind.

Cigna Global offers flexible expat health insurance options, so you can find a package that suits your situation. Let Cigna take care of your health, so you can focus on settling into your new life.

This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Cigna Global.

For members


EXPLAINED: Why you need ‘legal protection insurance’ in Switzerland

Swiss insurance companies offer a variety of services, but the one covering legal disputes is among the most popular ones. This is what you should know about it.

EXPLAINED: Why you need 'legal protection insurance' in Switzerland
Law and order: Legal insurance may make it easier. Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

The Swiss like to be prepared for all kinds of disasters — both real and imaginary.

This is where insurance comes in.

Whether it’s a policy that covers damages inflicted on cars by weasels, or insurance for theft of sleds and skis placed outside a mountain restaurant, people here don’t like to leave anything to chance.

One of the most popular optional coverages — as opposed the health insurance, which is compulsory — is legal protection insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherungen in German, protection juridique in French, and protezione giuridica in Italian).

What is it and what does it cover?

Simply put, it covers attorney and other associated fees if you undertake court action against someone, are sued, or simply need legal advice.

There are two different types of legal protection insurance — one specifically for traffic accidents and the other for all other matters. Sometimes they are combined.

Typically, this insurance covers costs of legal representation associated with contract disputes, employment, loans and debts, healthcare, housing, retail purchases, and travel.

Photo by Rodnae Productions from Pexels

Some carriers also insure cases related to marital law and inheritance.

Most will not cover attorney fees for criminal cases where you are the perpetrator, or financial disputes related to asset management, banking and investment.

Also excluded is legal action related to political or religious activism.

Can you choose your own lawyer or will you have one assigned to you by the insurance company?

Typically, an insurer has a roster of approved attorneys with whom it works. Some allow the client to choose from the list, while  others select one for you.

If your own lawyer is part of your insurer’s roster, you can request he or she represents you, but it is not guaranteed.

How much does this insurance cost?

Fees vary depending on what coverage you need (traffic accidents, general, or combined), whether they have deductibles, and how high they are.

You can compare the premiums by using this link.

Do you actually need this coverage?

As is the case with any optional insurance, you don’t need it until you do.

Generally speaking, and according to online consumer comparison site, “if you require legal consultation at least once every two years, getting personal legal insurance often makes financial sense. Just the legal consultation benefits which you get with some insurance policies can make up for the cost of premiums”.

READ MORE: How much does health insurance cost in Switzerland?