OBJECTIVES The Social Code Book Nine (SGB IX), which was implemented in 2001, contains the "Wunsch- und Wahlrecht" for medical rehabilitation services in para. 9. This describes a right to participate and choose in the process of rehabilitation. The aim of the study was to collect representative data about the implementation of the para. 9 SGB IX during application for medical rehabilitation services from the applicants' point of view. METHODS A total of 2 000 applicants for rehabilitation services (all somatic and psychosomatic indications) of a federal pension fund and a compulsory health insurance fund were invited to take part in a postal survey about the "Wunsch- und Wahlrecht". RESULTS The response rate was 66%. Most respondents reported that their application for rehabilitation services was approved immediately. People who supported respondents during application and gave information about the "Wunsch- und Wahlrecht" differed according to the kind of rehabilitation services the respondent applied for. Half of the respondents reported to have known about their "Wunsch- und Wahlrecht". The percentage was considerably higher for patients applying for post-hospital rehabilitation. Approximately 2/3 of the respondents had wishes concerning the choice of rehabilitation clinic. Half of those respondents reported their wishes to the insurer. Most wishes concerned the choice of a specific clinic, a place/region or the clinic's distance from the applicant's home. Wishes reported to the insurer were often considered (89%). Most important selection criteria for rehabilitation clinics were aspects of accommodation, clinic facilities and location, followed by aspects of treatment and the respectful treatment of rehabilitation patients. Concerning the mode of information about rehabilitation clinics, applicants preferred brochures (vs. internet), comparative and impartial information about the clinic and subjective accounts of individual rehabilitation patients. CONCLUSIONS This study is an evaluation of how the "Wunsch- und Wahlrecht" has been translated to reality of rehabilitation services provided by a federal pension fund and a compulsory health insurance fund. The findings show that many respondents know about their "Wunsch- und Wahlrecht" and make use of it to a certain degree. At the moment wishes still relate mainly to the place or region of rehabilitation. This shows the necessity of informing applicants about their "Wunsch- und Wahlrecht" on a regular basis. At the same time they must be enlightened about potentially important criteria for choosing a rehabilitation clinic.