Common Questions About Health Insurance in Germany

Updated on
May 31, 2024

Navigating the health insurance system in Germany can be challenging, especially for expats and newcomers. This article aims to answer some of the most common questions about health insurance in Germany, including the differences between public and private health insurance, how to sign up, associated costs, coverage, and special considerations for different groups.

Key Takeaways

  • Health insurance is mandatory for everyone residing in Germany, with options for both statutory (public) and private health insurance.
  • Public health insurance offers standardized coverage and is income-based, while private health insurance offers more flexibility but may come with higher costs and specific eligibility criteria.
  • Choosing between public and private health insurance depends on various factors, including income, age, health status, and personal preferences.
  • Enrolling in health insurance requires specific documentation and following certain steps, whether opting for public or private insurance.
  • Understanding the coverage, benefits, and potential exclusions of your health insurance plan is crucial to avoid unexpected costs and ensure adequate medical care.

Understanding the Basics of Health Insurance in Germany

Konzept zu PKV und GKV. Überschneidung der Wörter Versicherung, Tarif, privat und gesetzlich.

What is Statutory Health Insurance?

Statutory Health Insurance (SHI) in Germany is a public health insurance system that operates on the principle of solidarity. Everyone with insurance is entitled to the same services, regardless of their personal health risk and no matter how high their membership fee is. The basic principle is: high income = high fee, low income = low fee. SHI covers a wide range of medical services, including doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription medications.

What is Private Health Insurance?

Private Health Insurance (PHI) in Germany offers an alternative to the public system. It is typically chosen by those with higher incomes or specific needs that are not fully covered by SHI. Private insurers offer various plans with different levels of coverage. However, it's important to read the fine print, as some policies may not cover pre-existing conditions or may have waiting periods for certain types of coverage.

Who Needs Health Insurance in Germany?

Health insurance has been a legal requirement in Germany since 2009. The Health Insurance Compulsory Law (Krankenversicherungspflichtgesetz) mandates that all residents must have health insurance coverage. This includes:

  • Employees
  • Students
  • Freelancers/self-employed
  • Expats

If you're planning to move to Germany, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with the health insurance options available to ensure you meet legal requirements and have adequate coverage.

Choosing Between Public and Private Health Insurance

Cubes form the German expression 'PKV oder GKV' (private health insurance or public health insurance).

Pros and Cons of Public Health Insurance

Public health insurance in Germany, also known as statutory health insurance, is a popular choice for many residents. One of the main advantages is its affordability and comprehensive coverage. However, it may come with longer waiting times for certain treatments and less flexibility in choosing healthcare providers.

Pros and Cons of Private Health Insurance

Private health insurance offers more flexibility and personalized plans, allowing you to tailor coverage according to your individual requirements. This can mean shorter waiting times and access to a broader range of healthcare providers. On the downside, private health insurance can be more expensive, and premiums may increase with age or changes in health status.

Factors to Consider When Choosing

When deciding between public and private health insurance, consider the following factors:

  • Income Level: Higher earners may benefit more from private insurance.
  • Healthcare Needs: If you require specialized treatments, private insurance might be more suitable.
  • Family Situation: Public insurance often covers dependents at no extra cost.
  • Long-term Plans: Consider how your needs might change over time.

Choosing the right health insurance plan is a personal decision that depends on your unique circumstances and future plans.

How to Sign Up for Health Insurance in Germany

Female health insurance broker presenting his insurance benefits to businessman fill out insurance policy. To prevent future incidents.

Steps to Enroll in Public Health Insurance

  1. Choose a statutory health insurance provider: There are many options available, so take your time to compare benefits and costs.
  2. Fill out the application form: You can usually do this online or in person at the insurance office.
  3. Submit required documents: Typically, you'll need your passport, proof of residence, and employment contract or enrollment certificate if you're a student.
  4. Receive your insurance card: Once your application is processed, you'll receive your health insurance card, which you should carry with you at all times.

It's important to register for health insurance before starting work or your studies to ensure you're covered from day one.

Steps to Enroll in Private Health Insurance

  1. Research private health insurance providers: Look for companies that offer the coverage you need at a price you can afford.
  2. Request a quote: Contact the provider to get a detailed quote based on your personal circumstances.
  3. Complete the application: Fill out the necessary forms and provide any required documentation, such as proof of income and medical history.
  4. Wait for approval: The insurance company will review your application and may require a medical examination.
  5. Receive your policy documents: Once approved, you'll get your insurance policy and card.

Documents You Need

  • Passport: To verify your identity.
  • Proof of residence: Such as a rental contract or registration certificate.
  • Employment contract or enrollment certificate: To prove your employment or student status.
  • Bank details: For setting up payment of your premiums.
  • Previous health insurance details: If applicable, to show your insurance history.

Make sure to keep copies of all documents submitted for your records.

Getting in Touch with an Independent Licensed German Health Insurance Broker

To ensure you choose the best health insurance plan for your needs, consider consulting with an independent licensed German health insurance broker. They can provide personalized advice, help you compare different providers, and guide you through the enrollment process.

Steps to Connect with a Broker:

  1. Research and identify reputable brokers: Look for brokers with positive reviews and experience in helping expats. We can refer to our partners B-Protected.
  2. Contact the broker: Reach out via phone, email, or their website to schedule a consultation.
  3. Discuss your needs: Provide information about your circumstances and what you’re looking for in a health insurance plan.
  4. Receive tailored advice: The broker will offer recommendations based on your needs and budget.
  5. Complete the enrollment process: With the broker's assistance, finalize your health insurance application.

Working with an independent broker can simplify the process and ensure you find the best coverage for your situation.

Costs Associated with Health Insurance

Costs Associated with Health Insurance

Monthly Premiums

Health insurance costs can vary whether you have public or private coverage. Public health insurance usually tends to be less expensive since it has a fixed payment rate you have to pay, and prices do not increase with age. Currently, the mandatory rate is 14.5% of your annual salary plus an additional contribution which changes depending on your provider. Plus, you also share half of the costs with your employer.

Additional Contributions

In addition to the standard premiums, you might have to pay extra contributions. These additional contributions can vary depending on your health insurance provider. It's essential to check these rates before signing up to avoid any surprises.

Long-term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance is another cost to consider. This insurance covers the risk of needing long-term care due to age or illness. In Germany, it's mandatory to have long-term care insurance, and the cost is usually a percentage of your income. The current rate is around 3.05% of your gross salary, with childless employees paying a slightly higher rate of 3.3%.

Remember, while the costs might seem high, the comprehensive coverage and peace of mind that come with having health insurance in Germany are invaluable.

Coverage and Benefits

What Does Public Health Insurance Cover?

Public health insurance in Germany offers a basic mandatory coverage plan that includes a wide range of services. These services typically include:

  • Inpatient and outpatient services
  • Emergency care
  • Examinations
  • Some dental and vision care

This basic coverage remains consistent across all statutory health insurance providers.

What Does Private Health Insurance Cover?

Private health insurance offers a broader range of coverage options compared to public health insurance. Some of the benefits include:

  • Treatment at private hospitals
  • More comprehensive dental and vision care
  • Access to specialists without a referral

However, it's important to note that private health insurance usually excludes pre-existing conditions.

Understanding Exclusions and Waiting Periods

Both public and private health insurance plans come with certain exclusions and waiting periods. For instance, private health insurance may not cover pre-existing conditions, and there might be waiting periods for certain types of treatments. It's crucial to read the fine print and understand what is and isn't covered by your plan.

When choosing between public and private health insurance, make sure to consider the coverage details and any exclusions or waiting periods that may apply.

Special Considerations for Expats

Relaxed woman working from home on her laptop

If you're a student in Germany, you have a few options for health insurance. Public health insurance is often the most affordable and comprehensive option for students. However, if you're over 30 or have been studying for more than 14 semesters, you might need to switch to private health insurance.

Expats working in Germany are usually required to have health insurance. If you earn below a certain threshold, you will be automatically enrolled in public health insurance. For those earning above this threshold, you have the option to choose between public and private health insurance.

Freelancers have a bit more flexibility but also face more challenges. You can choose between public and private health insurance, but it's crucial to make this decision early. Some expat insurances are only valid for a limited time, and staying on them too long can make it difficult to switch to a more permanent solution.

Don't stay on expat health insurance for too long. Switch to public or private health insurance as soon as you can to avoid complications later on.

Common Issues and How to Resolve Them

What to Do If Your Claim Is Denied

Having a health insurance claim denied can be frustrating. First, review the denial letter carefully to understand the reason. Often, it might be due to missing documentation or a misunderstanding. Here are steps to take:

  1. Contact your insurance provider for clarification.
  2. Gather any additional documents or information they request.
  3. Submit an appeal if you believe the denial was unjustified.

How to Change Your Health Insurance Provider

Switching health insurance providers in Germany is relatively straightforward but requires attention to detail. Follow these steps:

  1. Check your current contract for any notice periods or conditions.
  2. Research and compare new providers to find the best fit for your needs.
  3. Notify your current provider of your intention to switch, adhering to any notice periods.
  4. Sign up with your new provider and ensure there is no coverage gap.

Handling Coverage Disputes

Coverage disputes can arise when there is a disagreement about what is covered under your policy. To handle these disputes:

  • Review your policy documents to understand the coverage terms.
  • Contact your insurance provider to discuss the dispute and seek clarification.
  • If unresolved, consider mediation or legal advice to resolve the issue.

It's essential to keep detailed records of all communications and documents related to your health insurance. This can be invaluable if disputes arise.


Navigating the health insurance landscape in Germany can seem daunting at first, but with the right information, it becomes much more manageable. Whether you opt for public or private health insurance, understanding the specifics of each option is crucial. Remember to read the fine print and be aware of any preconditions or waiting periods that might apply. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure you have the coverage you need for peace of mind while living in Germany. If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to reach out to the various resources and support systems available.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between statutory and private health insurance in Germany?

Statutory health insurance (SHI) is a public insurance system that covers the majority of residents in Germany. It is regulated by the government and provides a standard set of healthcare services. Private health insurance (PHI), on the other hand, is offered by private companies and can provide more extensive coverage options, often at a higher cost.

Who is eligible for private health insurance in Germany?

Private health insurance is generally available to self-employed individuals, high-earning employees, and civil servants. Employees must have an income above a certain threshold to opt-out of statutory health insurance and choose private insurance.

What does public health insurance cover in Germany?

Public health insurance typically covers a broad range of medical services, including doctor visits, hospital stays, basic dental care, and prescription medications. It also includes maternity care and preventive services.

What are the costs associated with health insurance in Germany?

The costs for statutory health insurance are based on a percentage of your income, with a standard rate of 14.6% plus a supplemental charge set by each insurer. Private health insurance costs vary widely depending on the level of coverage, age, and health condition of the insured.

How can expats sign up for health insurance in Germany?

Expats can sign up for health insurance by choosing either statutory or private health insurance. For statutory insurance, they need to register with a public health insurance provider. For private insurance, they can compare different providers and plans to find the best fit for their needs.

What should I do if my health insurance claim is denied?

If your health insurance claim is denied, you should first contact your insurance provider to understand the reason for the denial. If you believe the denial is unjustified, you can file an appeal or seek assistance from a patient advocacy organization.

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