The Austrian healthcare system is based on statutory social insurance. Healthcare is funded by the Austrian social health insurance funds, the Federal Government and the provinces, other social security institutions, or local governments. Patients are free to choose their family physician and have free access to most other forms of medical care. Family physicians are usually contracted by the social health insurance funds.
The Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection (BMSPGK) is responsible for general healthcare policy and protection of public health in Austria. It drafts legislation and functions as a decision maker, a supervisory authority, and also as a coordinator among the key actors in the healthcare system. In the hospital area, legislative and executive responsibilities lie with the individual provinces.
You can obtain medically necessary treatment by presenting the European Health Insurance Card, when you are temporarily staying in Austria. Medically necessary treatment refers to treatment that cannot wait for your return home. You may need such treatment in case of acute illness or accident. You can also receive treatment related to pregnancy and childbirth or to a chronic illness. The need for treatment must emerge during the course of your stay. If your illness requires regular treatment while you are temporarily staying abroad, agree with the treatment provider beforehand on the arrangement of treatment. Treatments that need to be arranged in advance include, for example, dialysis, oxygen therapy, specialised care of asthma and chemotherapy as well as echocardiography in chronic autoimmune diseases.
You will receive treatment on the same terms and at the same price as the locals. It is advisable to carry copies of your European Health Insurance Card with you, along with the card itself. If you didn’t have your EHIC with you or it was not accepted, and you were required to pay all the costs of treatment yourself, you might be able to apply for reimbursement from Kela retrospectively.
Admittance practices in Austria vary widely. Hospital outpatient clinics often accept patients without a doctor´s referral. In recent years, however, a referral has been required by hospitals more frequently. The same applies to appointments with specialists. It is a good idea to ask the treatment provider in advance about what their practice is.
Practices vary in how treatment costs are calculated. Hospitals that receive public funding treat foreign patients might ask for an immediate payment. You can contact the health care provider directly to ask about payment options. Private hospitals and other treatment providers may operate in a different way, and in many cases payment can be made afterwards by invoice. You should check the payment practice with the place of treatment in advance.
Find a doctor (Vertragsarzt) who has a contract with the “Österreichische Gesundheitskassa”. These doctors or dentists usually display a sign saying “Kassenarzt” (contracted doctor) or “Alle Kassen”, indicating they operate under the state system.
Present your European Health Insurance Card and ID at the appointment. You should receive treatment free of charge, as the local health insurance fund will reimburse your costs directly to the place of treatment, except possible patient’s contribution.
If you go to a private doctor who does not have a contract with health insurance fund, you will have to pay for treatment at the doctor office yourself. You can, however, obtain a partial reimbursement of treatment costs. Keep all receipts and apply for reimbursement either from Kela afterwards.
Only a limited range of dental treatment is available under the Austrian public healthcare system. Dental costs are reimbursed in cases of necessary treatment. Find a dentist (Zahnarzt) that is contracted to the “Österreichische Gesundheitskassa”. Show your European Health Insurance Card and ID. You will then receive certain treatment procedures either at a partially reduced rate or free of charge. You can also see a private dentist, but you must then pay for treatment at the appointment yourself first.
A doctor that is contracted to one of the health insurance funds will prescribe medicines using a prescription entitling to reimbursement (Kassenrezept). When you go to collect your prescription medicines from a pharmacy, show your European Health Insurance Card and ID. You will get the medicines at a standard rate.
If you have a prescription written by a private doctor (Privatrezept), you may have it accepted as a prescription entitling to reimbursements (Kassenrezept) either by a pharmacy or a regional health insurance fund, depending on the medicine. You always pay the full price of medicines collected with a private doctor´s prescription. Keep all pharmacy receipts anyway. You may be able to obtain a partial reimbursement from the local health insurance fund.
You can access hospital treatment with a general practitioner´s or specialist’s referral. If a doctor decides to send you to hospital for treatment, you will be given a voucher which entitles you to treatment at the co-payment rate. The doctor will recommend you a public hospital, as these have a contract with the regional health fund (Landesgesundheitsfonds). At the hospital, you will then pay in the general fee class (die allgemeine Gebührenklasse) an affordable daily fee, for a maximum of 28 calendar days a year. The amount of the co-payment varies slightly between Austria´s states.
In an emergency, you can also go directly to a public hospital´s emergency department. Show your European Health Insurance Card and ID and ask the hospital to check with the health insurance fund that your (general level) medical costs will be covered.
There are also private hospitals in Austria. If you are seeking treatment on your own initiative at a private hospital or you are sent, for example, in an emergency to one, you must pay the costs yourself first.
Emergency ambulance transport is usually free of charge if a contracted rescue organisation is called. Contracted rescue organisations may differ from province to province. Information is available at the regional health insurance fund. Rescue transports on the mountain regions in case of sports and leisure injuries are not free of charge. In this case the patient is usually responsible for the costs of rescue transport by himself.
Read more about suddenly falling ill in Europe.
Read more about reimbursement of costs of treatment abroad.
If you wish to travel to Austria for the purpose of using healthcare services, you can find general information on seeking treatment abroad on our site. Some useful websites are also listed below. You should direct your questions about healthcare in Austria to the Austrian National Contact Point.
You can search for a healthcare service provider operating in Austria through the following search services (in German):
- Service Suche service provider finder, which lists by area all doctors, pharmacies, dentists, hospitals rehabilitation facilities and other healthcare service providers in Austria
- Rehakompass rehabilitation service finder
You can use a search service (in German) to find pharmacies in Austria.
Quality and safety of treatment
The Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection of Austria distributes information about the standards of the quality of treatment provided by hospitals. The standards apply to all healthcare service providers who, if requested by a patient or another party, are obliged to show that they fulfil the standards in question.
You can also find more information about quality standards for practioners from the Austrian Doctor’s Chambers website (in German).