All you need to know about Health Insurance / Krankenversicherung in Germany
Last update: 27 April 2020
Your health is your greatest wealth. Even if you are healthy and have no previous illnesses, this can change quickly. An accident or infection are just a few of the many possible causes of a medical emergency that can leave you with high bills. Even if everything is fine now, good health insurance should be a very high priority. In Germany, the state cares for the health care of its citizens and requires that everyone has at least a basic health insurance. That is the main reason good and reliable health insurances in Germany are the norm: It is more difficult to lose your health insurance than to get one – but to make the right decisions you have to know some important facts about the very complex health insurance system in Germany.
Public health insurance in Germany – Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung (GKV)
Most people in Germany are compulsorily insured in one of the public health insurances. Every employee who earns less than 62K€ a year automatically is insured by his or her company. The employer also takes responsibility for the monthly payments, which are equally divided between both. The rate is then set in relation to the monthly gross income. For
Although there are more than 100 different public health insurance companies, they usually not differ significantly. Neither the prices nor the coverage are typical reasons to choose one insurance over another. There are only minor variations between the services and benefits of different public health insurance companies. For example, some pay more for preventive measures like special physical education lessons, while others cover some alternative medicine like homeopathy or traditional Chinese medicine.
In most cases it is not possible to take out health insurance for foreigners in Germany with your health insurance company in your home country. As soon as you want to study or work here, you have to take out insurance with a German health insurance company. Which of the many public health insurance companies you choose is not that important. Usually the bigger ones are a bit more attractive, because they have both very good online services and branches where you can talk with insurance agents immediately. Even providing services in English is not a problem for most of the major health insurance companies like TK, AOK, BKK, or DAK.
Pros and Cons of public health insurance in Germany
There are some advantages, but also some disadvantages of public health insurance in Germany. First of all you need to understand whether or not you meet the criteria to be accepted as a member in the public system. If you plan to get a regular job in Germany, this part will not be a problem. Otherwise, you will often need to prove that you are already insured in a public system in your home country.
In most cases, the public health insurance in Germany has the best price-performance ratio. Especially for students with or without part-time job the costs are very low. With usually around 100 € per month, every probable health risk is covered. If you are looking for health insurance in Germany for foreign students, the university and the Studierendenwerk usually can help you.
Once you are in, public health insurance in Germany is quite simple. You will receive a health insurance card, which looks like a credit card. Just put it in your pocket and whenever you need to see a doctor, give it to them to get the costs covered. Children are usually insured over public health insurance with their parents, unless they start to work or turn 25. They then have to choose health insurance for themselves.
Most public health insurances in Germany work with the “Hausarzt-Prinzip”. That means whenever you feel ill, are injured or just want to get a prescription for a medication, you have to contact your family doctor first. They will check whether they can help you there and if not redirect you to an suitable specialist. This slows down the whole process of getting an appointment. People with a public health insurance in Germany often have to wait many weeks to a few months for appointments with some specialists, but there are separate capacities for emergencies, so you do not have to worry about that too much.
Another disadvantage of the public health insurance in Germany is that they do not always cover the full costs of every treatment. Especially with dentists and expensive dentures, you often have to pay a large part yourself. Physical therapy and visual aids are a few more examples, which you usually have to pay partially for yourself. If medications are prescribed by a doctor, you pay only 5 € per box, the rest is covered by your insurance. There is a big and detailed catalogue, which lists everything that public health insurance pays or does not pay. Doctors will usually tell you if you need to pay something by yourself because it is not covered.