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What are the rights of panel patients in hospital? Since February 23rd 2013, your rights as a patient in Germany are clearly regulated by the German law on patient’s rights. Ten important facts about your hospital stay are listed here.

Free Choice of hospital

Whether you are a panel patient or a private patient, you can freely choose the hospital where you want to be treated. The treating doctor does name one or two nearby hospitals on the hospital admission. However, this indication is not binding (§ 76 German Code of Social Law (SGB) V Free choice of doctor). Read more about how to get a qualified, second opinion from a doctor.  

Second Opinion

At any time before surgery, you have the right to obtain a second opinion from another doctor who is not allowed to perform the surgery himself (§ 27b German Code of Social Law (SGB) V Second Opinion). However, your health insurance doesn’t pay for this consulting service under certain circumstances, because a reimbursement of costs is only legally guaranteed for three interventions: for operations on the palatine and/or pharyngeal tonsils, for the removal of the uterus and for arthroscopic interventions on the shoulder joint. The same applies to all other treatments: your own health insurance can pay or the costs of a second opinion, but it doesn’t have to.

Additional Payment

When you have chosen a hospital, as a panel patient you pay 10 euros per calendar day from the beginning of the hospital treatment for a maximum of 28 days (§ 61 German Code of Social Law (SGB) V Additional Payments). If you stay in hospital or in different clinics several times in a year, the hospital stays within one calendar year are added. Thus, you pay a maximum of 280 euros a year. Private patients don’t have to pay these additional costs.

Elective Treatments

As a panel patient, elective treatments such as treatment by the chief physician or accommodation in a single room are not free of charge (§ 17 – German Hospital Fees Act, Krankenhausentgeltgesetz). However, you can book these services in addition and pay for them yourself. As a private patient, your health insurance usually covers these costs.

Sickness Benefit

The sickness benefit replaces the remuneration in case of long-term incapacity for work ($ 44 German Code of Social Law (SGB) Sickness Benefit). In case of incapacity for work, insured persons receive a sickness benefit for a maximum of 78 weeks. The amount of the sickness benefit is 70 percent of the regular remuneration. Retirees in full pension don’t receive any sickness benefit because they don’t lose any income.

Treatment Errors

If you suspect that the treating doctor made a mistake in the treatment, the doctor immediately has to explain his actions comprehensively.  If he really made a mistake, your health insurance supports you with the search for a suitable contact person who represents you in a legal dispute or claims damages. The burden of proof for the error is on you (§ 630h Burden of Proof in case of Liability for Errors in Treatment and Information).

Patient File

According to the law on patient’s rights, you have the right to consult your patient file (§ 630g German Civil Code, BGB). Doctors are obliged to keep written records of all medical information such as the diagnosis, examinations and medical history in the patient file and to keep the file for ten years after the end of treatment.

Treatment Abroad

If you want to receive treatment from a specialist abroad or if you had an accident abroad and received emergency medical care there, the health insurance pays as much as it would have paid in Germany. That means that if the surgery is more expensive than in Germany, you have to pay the additional costs yourself. An international health insurance which can be added as a private additional insurance protects you against additional costs.

Discharge

If necessary, the hospital doctors can prescribe medicine, bandages, remedies, aids, further hospital treatment as well as home care and sociotherapy for up to seven days when discharged from hospital (within the framework of discharge management according to § 39 section 1a German Social Code (SGB) V). For the prescription of medicine, a package with the smallest package size is permitted.

Rehabilitation

Every patient can freely choose their rehabilitation facility and doesn’t depend on a clinic list issued by the health insurance (German Social Code (SGB) § 40). The rehabilitation clinic only has to fulfill three requirements: it provably has to be suitable for your rehabilitation, be certified according to legal standards and there has to be a contract of supply and occupancy between your cost bearer and the clinic. In case of doubt, ask your rehab clinic of choice whether you can be treated there as an insured person of a certain health insurance.

The Independent Patient Counseling Germany also advises you free of charge on your rights as a patient.

Are you looking for a suitable specialist clinic? In the clinic lists on Clinic Compass, you can find excellent hospitals for different diseases. You can also find rehabilitation clinics for certain illnesses.