Cheap Health Insurance Germany

How to get health insurance in Germany

Getting health coverage as a foreigner in Germany is trickier and more expensive than you might think. Ausländer have to prove they are insured before they receive an Aufenthaltserlaubnis or residency permit (documents not required for citizens from the EU, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein). There are many ways of getting covered.

Get a job

If you score a position with employee (Angestellte) status – not always such a simple thing to do in Berlin – and earn under €4163 a month, you’ll be automatically covered by a gesetzliche Krankenkasse (statutory insurance fund).

Marry someone with a job

If you have little or no income of your own, you’ll be automatically covered by his or her Krankenkasse.

Become a student

Students can get insurance from a Krankenkasse for about €60 a month. Why do you think so many Germans in their late twenties call themselves “students”?

Voluntary Krankenkasse contributions

If you’re self-employed or just not working, you can get private insurance or pay voluntary contributions to a statutory Krankenkasse. This is calculated as 14.9 percent of your income, but for some reason they base this calculation on a minimum income of €1916.25 a month, resulting in a monthly charge of €274.02 – obviously a high sum for the low-income self-employed. People who aren’t working or have any other kind of income can pay the seemingly arbitrary amount of €121.79 per month.

Private health insurance (PKV)

An attractive option at first glance, especially for young, healthy, self-employed males, who might pay less than €100 a month. Rates are based on your age, gender, health record and how much you’re prepared to pay out of your own pocket. But beware: private insurance premiums can go up annually. Some privately insured pensioners pay as much as €1000 a month!

Künstlersozialkasse (KSK)

Those who can prove they earn a living through artistic activity or writing of some kind are eligible to join the Künstlersozialkasse, an organization which will pay half of your social security contributions (as a percentage of your income), including pension contributions and your Krankenkasse (you have to belong to one in addition to the KSK) – a great deal compared to the other options. What constitutes ‘artistic activity’ is debatable. Getting into the KSK can be tricky. Most people hire a consultant to help with the paperwork, but it’s worth the effort.

Travel health insurance

For foreigners staying up to three years, travel health insurance is a viable option: it provides sufficient basic coverage including emergency dental care (although not routine check ups). Available for about €2 a day, such a travel health plan is a blessing for those who can’t afford regular German insurance premiums or got kicked out of the system. The Ausländeramt may or may not consider this type of insurance sufficient to qualify for a residency permit for non-EU nationals.

European Health Insurance Card

If you’re from the EU or Switzerland, your European Health Insurance Card (formerly the E111 form) entitles you to treatment in Germany. Go to the local AOK office and fill out the appropriate form, which you’ll have to show the doctor. The catch: it’s not meant for the residents and you have to reapply every two years in your home country – where you’ll have to prove residency and perhaps keep paying insurance fees.

International expat insurance

International health insurance plans are often half the price of German private insurance. Just google ‘expat insurance’ and you’ll find dozens of offers. But, as with any insurance, read the fine print very carefully: what do they really cover? How much do they really reimburse? What are their policies on pre-existing conditions?

Go on welfare

Funnily, it’s a lot easier to get health insurance if you’re on the dole than if you’re self-employed. And it’s free! Impoverished, jobless EU citizens have the same rights to Hartz IV benefits as Germans. Of course, if you just show up from another country and apply for welfare, be prepared for a long ride through cold, hard German bureaucracy, with grumpy women with dyed red hair urging you to go back where you came from.

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Health Insurance in Germany: A Guide For Foreign Students and Researchers

Finding suitable health insurance is an important thing to keep in mind if you’re planning to come to Germany soon. The German law requires everyone in Germany to have health insurance, including foreign students, guest researchers, and visitors. It’s also a requirement during your university application and enrollment process.

In this guide, we’ve covered everything you need to know about getting the right health insurance plan for the nature of your stay and your condition.

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Health Insurance in Germany: A Guide For Foreign Students and Researchers

Finding suitable health insurance is an important thing to keep in mind if you’re planning to come to Germany soon. The German law requires everyone in Germany to have health insurance, including foreign students, guest researchers, and visitors. It’s also a requirement during your university application and enrollment process.

In this guide, we’ve covered everything you need to know about getting the right health insurance plan for the nature of your stay and your condition.

Table of Contents

German Healthcare System Overview

The Health Care System in Germany is built upon the principle of solidarity. First, every citizen is charged with the same basic rate premium for his/her health insurance that guarantees that everyone contributes same and consequently gets the equal medical treatment. For example, an employer is obligated to pay his sick employee so the later will be able to pay his/her insurance and everyone involved in the plan benefits.

As a huge and complex entity, the German health insurance system is encircled by a number of actors. The main institution in charge, responsible for offering health care services in Germany is the Federal Ministry of Health.

Under their umbrella are several other self-governing institutions that take care of delivering these sorts of services to the people. This includes health insurance providers, regulatory bodies, patient organizations, etc. Duties of Federal Health Ministry include maintaining the health care policies in Germany and assisting these institutions for carrying on the health care services.

Health insurance in Germany is mandatory by law. This law states that every resident in Germany, international students, must be medically insured regardless of their income.

The introduction of this law was done after a medical reform in 2007. At that time the health insurance companies, namely known as Krankenkassen, were failing to cover all medical costs of their clients due to a shortage of funds. To solve this problem, the German government (Die Bundestag) initiated a medical reform under which everyone would be paying for their insurance. This made the Krankenassens able to cover citizens’ medical needs.

Today, the German health insurance system is one of the most modern in terms of quality, effectivity, organization, and coverage. It is estimated that more than 87% of the population in Germany have their health insurance covered.

Understanding the organization and the way it functions is very important before seeking a health insurance. In order for you to get the best deal, you must make a precise evaluation of each health care package offered to you.

For example, a health insurance provider may charge you with lower premiums, but underway may burden you additional money to cover medical costs and at the end turns to be very expensive. Another cheaper health insurance package may not cover all your medical costs and surely this is not what you prefer. With this being said, you must first understand how the system works and then take into consideration each detail before selecting the type of health insurance package and its provider. In this sense, we’re about to give a clear-cut guideline of the German health care system.

First thing, first. The healthcare insurance services in Germany are carried by insurance providers. They’re regarded as the Krankenkassen the typical name for health insurance provider in the German language. Currently, there are 118 such companies in the country delivering these services. The number of them may change year to year as their own policies of premium may also.

A further indication of the well-structured body, are health insurance options. Aligned with certain conditions people in German can seek one of the following healthcare insurances:

  • Government healthcare insurance (GVK)
  • Private healthcare insurance
  • A combination of two

The German health care system comprises the following health care services:

  • Outpatient care
  • Inpatient care (rehabilitation in a hospital)
  • Rehabilitation facilities

For over 125 years the AOK has guaranteed high quality medical care for its insured members in the event of ill health. Around 24 million people are insured under the regional 11 AOKs – close to a third of the German population. More than 53,000 qualified AOK employees based in over 1,200 offices ensure that members receive all the services they require: quickly, competently and without bureaucracy.

BARMER GEK is one of the largest statutory health insurance providers in Germany. Over 8.6 million policyholders place their trust in us. Approximately 15.000 BARMER GEK staff in 800 branch offices show their commitment every day in their work so that our policyholders receive the best possible service. Preventive health care and the best possible treatments in the event of illness are crucial to the quality of life. Health is precious. This why our main concern is that you stay. well.

Techniker Krankenkasse is a strong nationwide community. It is Germany’s major social health insurance fund with more than 8.8 million insurees. The number of insurees continues to increase since approx. 2,000 people take out insurance with TK each day. We are thus growing more than other health insurance funds.
You can rely on TK – as a modern service provider and with the backing of a big social health insurance fund. What does that mean for you? Great benefits, expert advice and customer service tailored to your needs and interest.

One of the largest statutory health insurance companies in Germany, we give roughly 6.3 million people peace of mind when it comes to their health and cases of illness. You can handle a host of matters simply online at in a special data-protected area. On request, a DAK-Gesundheit advisor can come to you at home – or you can contact us via phone 24 hours a day. This includes both medical consultation and questions centred on DAK-Gesundheit’s offers. This comprehensive service is certified by TÜV (German Technical Inspection Agency) and has already been distinguished with several awards from consumer magazines.

The KKH Kaufmännische Krankenkasse is one of the largest national health insurance companies in Germany and one of the strongest institutions in statutory health insurance. When it comes to health, you are on the safe side with us. Your advantages:

  • You receive comprehensive health services like medicine cost absorption, choice of hospitals and fixed allowances for dental prosthesis as well as exclusive additional services with added financial value.
  • We take care of everything when it comes to your health so that you can focus on your studies.
  • exclusive additional services: With our Plus Young-Tariff, you receive a bonus from us of up to 100 Euro per year.

The Government health care system (GKV) is a statutory health insurance scheme in Germany. Roughly 70 million German residents have their GKV insurance.

Who must be part of GKV?

As mentioned above, this health insurance scheme is statutory, in other words, by law, every citizen in German is obligated to have its GKV insurance. Since stands still if the person seeks a better health insurance scheme by a private provider. This means that every German resident whose earnings lay under a fixed amount of money are part of this insurance plan. The ceiling amount of money set for this scheme change from time to time. In 2018, everyone who earns less than €59,400 per year or €4,950 per month, so to say, is obligated to take its GKV.

How much you pay for your GKV health insurance?

There is a specific amount you must pay for your GKV insurance. The premium required for your GKV insurance in Germany is currently 14.6% of your gross salary. This is paid equally by your employer and by you; 7.3% each of you. This However, the actual 113 Krankenkassen (health insurance providers) carry a supplemental charge to their clients which in average is 1% of your salary. Note that with this monthly premium you cover your non-earnings dependent like your spouse or your children.

The intention behind the introduction of the mandatory health insurance in 2007 was that every citizen has the basic medical needs covered by its GKV health insurance. Those who get this insurance benefit

  • Inpatient care
  • Outpatient care by a licensed medical practitioner (Kassenarzte)
  • Basic dental care
  • Regular check-ups

Additionally, the insurance package involves a nursing care known as Pflegepflichtversicherung. Disabled people can seek help from a nurse practitioner to do bathing, feeding and similar daily activities.

When getting a GKV health insurance you must read carefully what it covers, because if you go beyond its coverage you’ll have to pay on your own. Your GKV health insurance it doesn’t cover any medical treatment in a private hospital, a private doctor or surgeon, specific dental care.

Note that the German health care system may still apply when you’re abroad. However, it doesn’t cover every single country in Europe. So, when you’re somewhere outside Germany make sure your insurance will protect you.

While your membership in this insurance plan is mandatory, the choice of the service provider is upon you. Further on you can switch between them easily. Your membership at each of them lasts for 18 months. After the end of this period of time, you’re free to decide if you want to change because of premium policies or other conditions.

Contributions for 2018 are as follows:

The difference between public health insurance and private health insurance in Germany

First things first. Health insurance is mandatory for every citizen and resident in Germany, regardless of their income. On the other hand, whether you choose public or private health insurance is upon your decision and it depends entirely on your earnings.

Medical care coverage is different for each insurance scheme

The health insurance aims to cover basic medical needs, including a basic dental care and regular checkups. In contrast, the private health insurance can cover more specific medical treatments. Moreover, you can get medical treatment in a private hospital or even ask to have your personal doctor who will be taking care of you whenever you need.

You pay different premiums for public and private health insurance

The premium rate you pay for your public health insurance is not the same as for the private health insurance. For your public health insurance, you pay much lower as for the private health insurance. There’s a nationwide basic premium rate for the public health insurance, which is the same for every citizen no matter his/her income. This amount of money needed to be paid for your public insurance may change. Currently, the basic premium rate the public health insurance charges is 14.6% of your gross income. The private health insurance charges higher premiums which vary according to your earnings and the risks you’re willing to take.

GKV and PKV: Whom it covers?

Your public health insurance in Germany may cover your dependents too, for example, your spouse/wife or your children. A private health insurance, on the other hand, it usually covers only the applicant who has been taking the insurance.

As a GKV insurer, you pay a nominal fee in hospital

If you’re holding a public health insurance you will have to pay a nominal amount of money when getting a hospital rehabilitation while for the rest the insurance provider will take care. Whereas, if you’re holding a private health insurance you won’t be paying a single cent. All you need to do is to show your membership chip card and your provider will take care of everything.

The geographical coverage is different

The public health insurance has a limited geographical coverage as opposed to a private health insurance provider which most of the time have a wider coverage. Being insured under the GKV scheme you’d expect to have basic medical assistance if you’re caught by surprise by an illness in some particular countries, but that’s all. If you’re privately insured your medical care will normally include more health coverage.

You or insurance providers: who pays for remedies?

If you’re insured with a public health insurance provider then 10% must be paid with a maximum of 10 euros and a minimum of 5 euros per prescription. Non-prescription medicines must be paid in full. Furthermore, the pharmacy is obligated to find the cheapest remedies required by you. On the other hand, if you’re privately insured then you will take top-brand remedies. At the moment when you’ll get the medicines, you’ll have to pay and then send the receipts to your health insurance company which is supposed to take care of reimbursement.

Health Insurance For Foreign Students In Germany

All international students in Germany are required to have health insurance during their stay. In fact, you can’t enroll in university if you don’t have health insurance coverage.

The good thing about being fully insured is the peace of mind knowing that if you happen to have health problems, you can go visit the doctor and get hospital services knowing that you won’t have to pay the large medical bills out of your pocket.

There are two types of health insurance in Germany:

  1. The compulsory health insurance (public health insurance)
  2. Private health insurance.

All students are required to have health insurance in Germany, but depending on where you come from, you might be eligible to use the health insurance you already have in your home country. You should consult your university’s international office for more details.

Even if you have basic coverage, many students also get additional health insurance plans that cover specific conditions and are customized for them. There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to health-related issues.

You don’t have to get stressed and worry too much in general whether you should choose public or private insurance or which private company you should move forward with.

These days you can compare insurance plans and buy your own insurance online before you arrive in Germany. For international students in Germany, we recommend you get the MAWISTA Student health insurance plan.

Health insurance for language course students in Germany

Are you planning to learn the German language in Germany? The German law requires you to have health insurance.

Many students choose Germany as the country to learn the German language because it’s the language’s origin country, you get to have conversations with native German speakers, enjoy the culture and more.

Some of most reputable language schools offer language learning courses and programs that require you to stay for a few weeks or months in Germany, and because you’re essentially going to live there, the German law requires you to have health insurance.

Depending on your health conditions, you may choose a health insurance plan that is tailored to you. These days you can compare private insurance plans and get health insurance customized for you online. Keep in mind that as a language student in Germany you won’t be able to get the public health insurance plan.

Health insurance for preparatory course students

Do you need to take a preparatory course before you start university in Germany? You must have health insurance.

Many German universities require you to enroll in a preparatory course and pass the final test before you can begin studying and attending lectures in the normal university program. This depends on your education and in some cases, preparatory courses are not required.

If the international office of the university you’re planning to study in has instructed you to come to Germany to first take a prep course, they surely mentioned you need to have health insurance in addition to the rest of the required application documents.

The German law requires you to have health insurance, and you can pick a private plan depending on your needs. You can’t get insured under the public health insurance plan as a preparatory course student.

Some companies have custom-tailored health insurance plans for foreign students and can have you covered for the full duration of your preparatory course, with the option of extending your insurance in case you stay in Germany to continue your studies.

Health insurance for exchange students

You must have health insurance to stay in Germany as an exchange student.

If you’re going to study in Germany for a semester or a year, as an exchange student or with programs such as Erasmus, you’re going to need health insurance.

Because, the law requires everyone in Germany to have health insurance you’re going to need to get a plan that complies with this law. If you’re from a EU country, chances are your current plan is sufficient, but it’s best if you consult with the international office of your university.

In Germany, you have two options when it comes to health insurance, one is the public insurance that everyone gets but only covers the basic health-related problems, and the second option is private insurance that can be customized depending on your needs.

The majority of exchange students in Germany choose a private insurance plan customized for them because they are more comprehensive in terms of coverage.

If you want to have peace of mind and know that you’re not going to pay large medical bills when you get sick in Germany, it’s recommended that you get yourself a plan customized for international students. One plan that is ideal for students is MAWISTA Student .

Health insurance for guest workers and guest scientists

Are you going to stay in Germany and as a guest researcher or scientist? You are required to have health insurance when you come to Germany.

Germany is one of the countries that welcome thousands of guest workers, researchers, and scientists. The duration of your stay, of course, depends on the work you will be doing, but also the period of time your visa has been granted.

One thing you are required to have if you’re coming to Germany to work as a researcher or guest scientist is health insurance.

The regulations in Germany require everyone to have health insurance. If you come from an EEA country or a country that has a social security agreement with Germany, you might be eligible to use your health insurance you already have in your home country.

If you are from a non-EU country and you’re planning to stay in Germany for a longer period of time, you will need to get the compulsory health insurance from licensed insurance companies in Germany.

We recommend you get yourself a plan tailored for guest scientists and researchers such as MAWISTA Science .

Health insurance for International Ph.D. Students/Candidates in Germany

Most Ph.D. students should take out private health insurance plans. As a foreigner, you cannot take out statutory health insurance if you have reached the age of 30 or have started the 14th semester of studies in Germany.

Only a few of doctoral students are allowed to continue with more reasonable health insurance rates, as a gesture of goodwill, depending on whether they have reached their 30th birthday yet or their 14th semester (you should count from the first semester of studies).

Private health insurance providers offer a variety of services that are not covered by statutory health insurance providers. They can also offer coverage or reimbursements for private rooms, surgeons, dental implants, private doctors, and other medical possibilities.

The good thing about Ph.D. students is that their risk is not highly calculated as they are still young and in good health, therefore pay less for getting into private health insurance schemes. Otherwise, the monthly rate would have been automatically higher; as older persons are considered more risk-prone and possible to become chronically ill.

To enroll at a German university, you must first present the proof of current health insurance in Germany or an international health insurance scheme that is also accepted in Germany. Otherwise, enrollment is impossible!

For international PhD students in Germany, we recommend you choose the MAWISTA Student plan , which you can easily apply for online.

International Doctoral Candidates Receiving Scholarships

Nowadays, scholarships are considered tax-free allowances or student salaries/earnings. Therefore, Ph.D. students must all be health insured in Germany, and whether they get statutory or private health insurance also depends on the amount of money they earn annually or of their scholarship.

Ph.D. Candidates that receive scholarships or who are based in Germany to write their dissertation independently are not subject to compulsory insurance. These students are eligible either to become voluntary members of a public health insurance scheme or to take out any private health insurance.

Unemployed Ph.D. students that have prolonged their studies can take out private health insurance for the duration of their doctoral studies.

Doctoral Students as University Staff Members

Doctoral students, that are also University staff members, are insured as employees in the statutory health insurance schemes due to their annual payrolls being below the threshold that could have enabled private health insurance options.

The annual payroll limit changes from year to year and is determined by the ‘Beitragsbemessungsgrenze’. However, in 2015, the threshold was 54,900€.

Ph.D. academic staff working at the university and needing to pay social security fees are automatically covered by the statutory health insurance policies.

Ph.D. students employed as research assistants at a university or other higher education institutions are covered by social security – therefore, statutory health insurance is obligatory.

Health insurance for Refugees in Germany

As official statistics show, over 700,000 refugees have been registered at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) in Germany during 2016.

These refugees mostly come from areas of conflict like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and because of this a large number of them are either injured or have some kind of illness. For their physical and mental health, having a proper medical and psychological treatment is more than crucial.

As already stated, the health insurance in Germany is mandatory for everyone residing in Germany. This includes refugees seeking asylum in Germany, regardless of their citizenship status.

But, there are some rules and limitations a refugee in Germany should be aware of when deciding to get health insurance. First, one must know that the refugees have fewer benefits than legally insured citizens in Germany. However, current legal regulations allow treating specific cases to further extend if needed.

Below we’ve provided all the information refugees must have prior to seeking health insurance in Germany:

Where can I get health insurance as a refugee in Germany?

It all begins with knowing where to make a request for seeking health insurance. The first place the refugee need to address his/her health issues as a refugee is the immigrant center where he/she is registered.

There are specific officials and sections that deal with the health issues of the refugees accommodated there. A refugee is supposed to undergo regular medical check-ups to come up with a conclusion over his health situation. If needed, the team of medicals at the reception center may require the subject to undergo further analyzes to examine their health problems into more details.

What benefits does The German Health Insurance for Refugees cover?

The German Health insurance for Refugees covers less medical services than normally insured citizens. As a refugee, an individual can request regular medical checkups and basic medical assistance. Further intervention can only be given if the medical team assess that there is an emergency to act.

Common medical services refugees in Germany can seek:

  • Regular medical check-ups
  • Medical treatment for acute illnesses
  • Nursing and medical treatment for pregnant women (including remedies)
  • Medical assistance for women who just gave birth (including remedies)

Can I get statutory health insurance like permanent residents in Germany?

15 months from the first day at the immigrants’ reception center, the refugee is eligible to seek statutory health insurance in Germany. To a certain degree the refugees will get the same health insurance benefits as German residents, however, there will still be limitations.

From the very first day in the migrants’ camp, everyone is obligated to undergo regular checkups to see if their health is at acceptable limits. These medical checkups are usually a routine at refugee camps so the refugees’ health is known at any time. This is very important because there are many individuals that have an unknown medical background and may impose a threat to the community.

After a refugee lives in Germany for this period of time he/she is entitled to the German health insurance and social assistance scheme. Similar to other insured citizens, refugees must share a percentage of their earnings to cover their health insurance. Currently, the social grants to refugees are around 4,800 per year, or slightly over 400 per month and 2% of this income must be allotted to paying health insurance.

What is the Gesundheitskarte?

The Gesundheitskarte is an electronic health insurance card. This chip-card allows the patient to go directly to the doctor without even visiting a social services department to take a medical certificate or asking for a permission beforehand.

After 15 months of residing in Germany, refugees can get this health insurance card.

Note that the new medical reform that introduced the Gesundheitskarte is not available in every Federal state.

Which German Federal States give health insurance cards to refugees?

As mentioned, not every German state offers health care insurance cards to refugees. Below is the exact list of German states that do and do not offer such cards to their immigrants

These states have implemented the health insurance card for refugees

  • Bremen
  • Berlin
  • Hamburg
  • Schleswig-Holstein
  • Brandenburg
  • Rheinland-Pfalz
  • Nordrhein-Westfalen
  • Niedersachsen

In political process:

  • Hessen
  • Sachsen-Anhalt
  • Bavaria
  • Sachsen
  • Baden-Wurttemberg
  • Mecklenburg- Vorpommern

Should refugee students seek health insurance in Germany?

Just like for normal students in Germany, health insurance is also mandatory for refugee students who want to attend university. This applies only to students who are under 30 years of age and haven’t finished their 14th semester.

Also, refugee students carry the same monthly premium as other students. Currently, a student’s contribution to health insurance is 66.33 euros.

But students in Germany are also assigned for another type of insurance, the long-term care insurance. As students with equal rights, the refugee students are obligated to pursue it as well.

The application process is easier if the applicant has a well-defined civil status (for example a refugee in protection or an asylum seeker). However, a student can still initiate an admission process, but additional requirements and restrictions may be applied.

To a larger degree, this depends on the university’s own policy, so we suggest you contact them in person for details.

In general, if a refugee aims to enroll at a German university, they will be required to show these documents:

  • Qualification degree
  • Proof of health insurance
  • An official notice if there’s a restricted number of programs the students are eligible to apply for
  • Personal information

Make sure you have completed your documents as required otherwise the admission committee of your university will deny your application. Also, the refugee’s qualification obtained back in their home country are mostly counted, but it may occur that the university requests another route to assess the applicant’s suitability.

What if the refugee has an acute illness and needs urgent medical interventions?

Health insurance providers in Germany are allowed to offer medical help to immigrants to the extent the law allows them.

Health insurance plans for refugees cover only basic medical needs, but if there’s an emergency there are exemptions. Fortunately, the current legal regulations are shown to be very flexible, giving the immigrants an opportunity to seek more specific medical aids if needed.

Does every German state offer health insurance for refugees?

Unfortunately, some German federal states don’t offer health insurance services at all.

Individual states that comprise the country of Germany set their refugee health insurance policy on their own. Until now, the majority of the German federal states have accepted such health insurance scheme for foreigners residing in the country with a specific status.

The German federal states that offer health insurance to refugees:

  • Brandenburg
  • Bremen
  • Berlin
  • Hamburg
  • Schleswig-Holstein
  • North Rhine-Westfalia
  • Thuringia
  • Rheinland-Pfalz

The German federal states that haven’t introduced health insurance services for refugees:

  • Baden-Wurttemberg
  • Bavaria
  • Mecklenburg- Vorpommern
  • Saarland
  • Saxony

German federal states with partial application or ongoing debates about offering refugee health insurance:

  • Hesse
  • Lower Saxony
  • Saxony-Anhalt

Frequently Asked Questions About Health Insurance

1. How do I apply for a health insurance?

There are currently 113 official public health insurance companies in Germany, known as Krankenkassen, but the Government doesn’t set the one to choose. Since you have this freedom to choose all it takes to be entitled is to contact the company of your choice and see if their offers suit you. Normally they will guide you through the whole process and paperwork needed.

2. How long can I stay without being insured?

If you’re an international coming to Germany you need to register for the mandatory health insurance scheme within 30 days from the day you register at a residence address. If you’re an employee-to-be in Germany then it is expected that your employer will take care of all the paperwork at least two weeks before you start your job.

3. How do I get a health insurance in Germany?

Health insurance in Germany is mandatory for everyone. There are many health insurance companies known as Krankenkassen you must look for and apply for their insurance packages. Once you find the one it suits you must initiate the process of the health insuring by contacting your chosen provider. They will give the details and the paperwork required for your entitlement to their insurance framework.

4. What if I am an expat and I don’t know German?

There’s no need to worry about this. Most doctors and pharmacists in Germany know English or any other language so communication won’t be any problem and you will address your health concerns easily. Furthermore, if you’re holding a private medical healthcare insurance there will easier than that. Private insurers make adds a significant contribution to the doctors’ supplemental incomes and so they pay greater attention to their privately insured patients. Being so, most of them know at least a foreign language other than the German language.

5. Do I get fined if I don’t have health insurance?

You must have a thing clear from the very beginning, health insurance is mandatory by law in Germany. With this being said, if you don’t have a health insurance, you’re actually breaking the law. And surely breaking the law means you’ll be charged a fine. So, when residing in Germany the first priority of yours will have to be seeking your health insurance otherwise you know the consequences. Although this is to say you need to be insured every moment in Germany, there may be a time-limited tolerance, but very narrow. Any single moment beyond this time limit will lead to a penalty for you.

6. How much does my membership with a Krankenkassen last?

When signing up with a particular Krankenkassen (health insurance provider) you will be a member of their insurance scheme for 18 months. After that, you’re free to decide if you want to continue with them or change to another company whose offer seems more attractive to you. If you’re holding a public health insurance and you want to change your insurance scheme to private insurance, then you can do by sending your provider a notice 2 months ahead.

7. Do I have to pay for my children’s insurance?

It depends on the type of health insurance you’re holding. If you have a GKV then your insurance is supposed to cover all your non-working and non-earning workers, including here close relatives like your spouse/wife or children.

8. What if I suddenly get sick in Germany while in a short visit?

If you’re in a temporary stay in Germany and get suddenly sick your health insurance in your home country covers your medical needs in specific circumstances, otherwise not. If you’re an EU/ EEA and Switzerland citizen and entitled in your country’s public health insurance framework then you can seek health care in Germany if you end up sick. In 2013, EU countries initiated a joint health care system so the citizens of each other could get required medical treatment all covered by their health insurance in their homeland. This normally applies in specific circumstances, for example, in emergency cases, or you need a treatment because you get acute symptoms or you’re an expectant other. When getting to the hospital you have just to show them your European Health insurance Card (EHIC) and they will take care you get the necessary medical care. After returning home, your health insurance provider will reimburse your insurance account.

9. Is health insurance an admission requirement?

In a way, the fact that health insurance in Germany is mandatory by law confounds international students about the time when they must seek health insurance. Many fear that they cannot apply for a university place without being health insured in the first place. False! You’re free to submit a university application without being health insurance ahead of your landing in Germany. Once you get admitted and land in Germany you must seek your health insurance plan.

So, have in mind, that while for the university application, there’s no need to be health-insured, when it comes to being enrolled at the university you need to be insured otherwise the University will turn down your admission.

After you receive the admission letter, the university is supposed to give you the necessary information around relevant issues relating to your staying in Germany as an international student. Also, you’re free to ask their counselling services for still more specific procedures on how to seek health insurance as for the other needs you may have through the way.

10. Can I use my homeland health insurance plan in Germany?

It wholly depends if there’s any agreement between respective states, therefore your country and Germany. Also, note that countries’ health insurance policy, including here Germany, toward a foreign country change depending on the country.

For example, back at home, your health insurance may cover numerous medical needs, but in Germany, there are limited medical services covered by your insurance provider. Furthermore, there are countries with whom Germany may not have a single agreement about this issue and your health insurance won’t cover anything. In this context, you must personally ask your health insurance provider and other relevant national authorities in your home country and they will inform you in details.

11. Does my insurance plan cover me when I’m home on holidays?

Except for particular countries with whom the German state doesn’t have a bilateral agreement, your German health insurance plan is supposed to cover you even when you’re staying home during holidays. However, there may be specific circumstances and specific situations at which your insurance won’t cover you while being out of Germany. If you have this concern you must ask your health insurance provider in Germany and other involved authorities that will tell you if they offer a health insurance plan that perfectly matches your needs.

12. If I graduate before my health insurance membership expires should I still pay for it?

When you get your health insurance plan you basically sign a contract with the Krankenkassen company and as any other contracts, it has its own conditions and terms. Therefore, you need to stay in line with them.

In principle, this contract specifies that your Krankenkassen membership lasts for 18 months. After this period of time, you’re free to choose if you want to continue or resign. However, you can still switch off your membership before this deadline by sending a notice to the health insurance provider you have chosen in Germany. Also, you need to contact a Residence Registration Office and tell them you want to cancel your insurance. They may give you a form to fill so they can remove you from their database. Finally, they set a time limit after which you’re no longer entitled to the health insurance program in Germany. This time limit is usually two weeks or so.

13. Can my health insurance plan cover my relatives?

Lucky for you. One of the extra benefits that the health insurance system in Germany is that your insurance can cover your relatives who at the moment when they need the medical assistance were visiting you. Surely, your insurance will only cover basic needs until your relative can return home for further rehabilitation.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is a membership card which allows European citizens to pursue necessary medical care while being in a foreign country, free of charge or at a reduced cost. The card came as a replacement for the E111 certificate which basically had a similar intention as the EHIC.

Years later, after the E111 was replaced in 2005, the European countries increased their commitment to widening the participation. In 2013, 32 EU countries, including Switzerland agreed on creating a joint European healthcare system. Under this health insurance scheme, every European citizen will get the necessary medical treatment if it’s caught by surprise by an accident or an illness while being abroad. According to the most up-to-date statistics, over 40% of EU population have their EHIC card.

If you’re a European citizen and want to travel in other EU countries you must have your EHIC on your luggage otherwise in case of an emergency your health insurance in your home country won’t cover any of your medical expenses. Also, take care of exactly knowing what your insurance covers abroad if you don’t want to go beyond that and end up paying too much.
The following countries are part of the European Health Insurance agreement, therefore citizens of these countries are allowed to pursue an EHIC:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden Switzerland and United Kingdom.

Besides these countries, there some third countries with which the member states hold similar agreement for the medical protection of citizens of all agreed parties. Clearly, the list above doesn’t include the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican.

How do I apply?

If you’re a citizen of the above-mentioned countries and you hold the public health insurance in your country of residence then you eligible to pursue an EHIC insurance. Also, if you’re a national of a non-EU country and legally residing in an EU country, Liechtein, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland you can pursue your EHIC. Note, however, that Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland don’t accept the non-EU residents EHIC cards.

The application for your EHIC card can be carried online. Each country has an official website for everyone willing to apply for an EHIC card. Always keep in mind that your application for this health insurance charges no fee to you. Unfortunately, there are some scam websites that may pull out you to pay for such application so take care of them.
The best you can do is by contacting in person your public health insurance provider in your home country and they will help you with the application process and in this way you avoid any possible fraud.

What it covers your EHIC?

The biggest and the foremost problem people have when taking their EHIC card is not precisely knowing what it covers. It is important that the EHIC is strictly limited to a number of medical services to the insurer. Furthermore, its coverage may change depending on the country’s national health care system.

At its best, the European Health Care System is designed to cover the insurer’s basic medical needs while being in a foreign country. This includes pre-existing chronic illness like the kidney dialysis, the emergency cases and unexpected accidents. Holding this insurance card doesn’t cover your medical treatment if you travel abroad for the purpose of giving birth in the destination country. As an expectant mother your EHIC will cover only if you give birth to a child even though you were not expected to do during that period.

Below are some important notes everyone holding this health insurance card must be aware of:

Your EHIC card can be pursued in your home country and can be issued by your statutory health insurance provider. The application process as mentioned before can be carried online.

Your EHIC card is not an alternative to your travel insurance. Being so, the EHIC won’t cover any cost that the travel insurance is supposed to cover, for instance, your stolen things, your ticket for flying back home.

Moreover, if you go abroad with a clear purpose of seeking a private healthcare treatment, then your EHIC card won’t cover you anymore. This includes any private treatment you were not able to pursue in your homeland, any advanced dental care and so on.

Your EHIC doesn’t every medical cost, you may have abroad. Furthermore, the limits at which the EHIC coverage extents differ from country to country, depending on each health insurance policy. For example, the statutory health insurance system in a foreign country may charge you with a nominal fee for a medical need that in your home country wouldn’t be paying anything. This is entirely due to different public health insurance scheme between your homeland and the other country. In other words, you’ll be taken care of same as the resident of one country who holds a public health insurance there.

Your EHIC card covers only the health insurance of the person who’s holding it. If you want to cover any member of your family you have to get an EHIC for each of them.

Get to understand the portable documents

When getting insured under the European Health Insurance scheme, you will also receive some other documents in letter form apart from your EHIC card. Under the European health insurance scheme reform, the former E-certificates were replaced by a group of more comprehensive documents, with one of them being the EHIC card. In contrast to other 9 portable documents the EHIC is not in the letter form, but as a card. Basically, a portable document is what makes sure you to be covered in certain circumstances while being abroad. For example, in case of an emergency or an accident abroad, you can seek the required medical treatment with your D1 portable document.

Note that you can still pursue a health insurance in EU countries, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland even though you may have been insured in another country. If you’re abroad with a purpose rather than working, therefore on a short visit, you can still seek your EHIC card. Simply get to your health insurance provider in the country you reside and ask if your EHIC card covers in the country where you’re about to go or seek an S1 form to register for a local health insurance company in the country you’re visiting. The health insurance through S1 is very common for retirees or for family members of a migrant worker. For example, the family members of a migrant working abroad may live in their country of origin but now are also covered under their family member insurance abroad.

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