What to do if you forget your German health card at home

What to do if you forget your German health card at home

It’s cold season and you might have made a trip to the doctor recently to get a note for sick leave, but with a head weighed heavy with snot and brain fog, forgetting to bring your health insurance card (Gesundheitskarte) is forgivable. Here’s what to do if you find yourself at the doctor without it.

Why is it important to bring your Gesundheitskarte to the doctor?

Apart from collecting prescriptions at the pharmacy, there is normally no exchange of money for healthcare in Germany. Your healthcare costs are instead deducted from your gross income, with everyone paying the same basic rate of 14,6 percent of your gross salary. This contribution is split equally between you and your employer (7,3 percent each) and topped up with government subsidies.

Once you register for health insurance in Germany, which is mandatory for everyone, you will receive your Gesundheitskarte by post. This card is your proof that you are covered by a health insurance provider (Krankenkasse) and also acts as a European health card (EHIC). It is advised to carry this card with you at all times, and when you visit the doctor, hospital or emergency room, you will have to place your card in a reader to prove that you are still covered.

Since October 2023, workers in Germany no longer have to physically go to the doctor to get a sick note for a shorter period off work and can instead phone the doctor's office at which they are registered. However, there are still many scenarios - like a scheduled doctor's appointment, or a visit to the gynaecologist or physiotherapist - where you will still need to be physically present and show your card.

What to do if you forget your German health card at home

Since having a tummy bug or rushing to the emergency room in a worry can easily mean forgetting your card, there are a number of things you can do to make sure that the doctor will still see you even if you don’t have your card with you.

The first includes using the app of your Krankenkasse company. Most health insurance companies in Germany, including the two largest, Technicker Krankenkasse and AOK, have apps that all insurees can download to their mobile phone.

Within these apps, there is an option to show a digital version of your Gesundheitskarte to the receptionist at your doctor or the hospital. One thing to be aware of however is that you won’t be able to prove your insurance coverage if you haven’t downloaded the app in advance of your visit, since the confirmation process after downloading the app involves being sent a code in the post.

In the eventuality that you have not downloaded the app in advance or the staff are not convinced that this is a valid way to prove your insurance, there is another solution. If you have forgotten your card it is also possible to call your health insurance provider and ask them to send a fax, yes, a fax, to the doctor’s surgery, which will confirm that you are currently covered.

If you have downloaded your health insurance provider app, in some cases it is also possible to avoid waiting in the customer service hotline queue and instead press a button in the app which will automatically and immediately send this confirmation fax to your doctor’s office.

It is important to note that staff at the doctor or hospital might also turn you away if their card reader is not registering your card, even though the card is valid. In that case, it is also possible to try one of the above solutions so that you can be seen by a doctor then and there.

Can the doctor charge you for treatment if you forget your card?

In such scenarios, it may also be the case that the doctor or hospital issues you with a “replacement procedure” slip (Ersatzverfahren), which is a private invoice for the treatment you have received. In this case, you will have to provide proof that you are insured within 10 days of treatment or risk footing the bill yourself.

If you fail to provide this proof within the 10 days and have to pay up there is one final option, the doctor will reimburse your payment if you submit proof of your insurance by the end of that financial quarter.

Thumb image credit: Kittyfly /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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