Expat Health Insurance in Germany - All you need to know

Updated on
May 24, 2024

All foreigners living and working in Germany need expat health insurance. It is mandatory to show proof of health insurance when applying for a German VISA or residence permit. Once you become a German resident it is compulsory to take out health insurance in Germany, according to law, and register with either public health insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenkasse, GVK) or private health insurance (Private Krankenversicherung, PVK).

Choosing Between Private and Public Expat Health Insurance in Germany

Expats in Germany can choose either private expat health insurance or public expat health insurance depending on their country of origin, occupation, and length of stay.

Occupational Groups

For some occupational groups, it is not compulsory to take out public health insurance. If you are self-employed, freelancer, student, or civil servant you can become either voluntary insured in the public health insurance, or take out private health insurance without any further criteria.

If you are employed in Germany, it is compulsory to take out public health insurance unless you reach the compulsory/mandatory insurance limit of €69,300 per year (€5,575 per month) in 2024. Anyone earning above this can also become voluntarily insured with public health insurance or become eligible for private health insurance.

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We can help you choose the best health insurance in Germany for your needs whether you are employed, self-employed/freelancer or contractor!

Temporary Visitors

If you are a temporary visitor from a third-country nation, which does not have a social security agreement with Germany, you will not qualify for public health insurance.

This you would need to take out private health insurance in Germany. 

Temporary Visitors from EU Countries

Temporary visitors from EU countries have the right to stay and work in Germany without further requirements. They are covered by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for short stays (up to one year) but would require to get valid German health insurance for long stays.

Public Health Insurance in Germany

The Government Health Insurance system, also called public health insurance in Germany, is based on the solidarity principle. This means that everyone pays a fixed base contribution percentage and the coverage contains the same benefits for all.

Half of the contribution cost (50%) is covered by your employer (for employees) and includes family co-insurance cover as well. So the public health insurance in Germany will cover you with the same benefits no matter your state of health, however, it may be more expensive than private health insurance for young and healthy persons.

The total contribution rate for 2023 was 14.6% plus an additional contribution dependent on the public health insurance provider you choose. During 2023 the average additional contribution rate was 1.6%.

It is compulsory for employees to take out public health insurance in Germany if they earn below the compulsory/mandatory insurance limit of €69,300 per year (€5,575 per month) in 2024. Self-employed, freelancers, students, and civil servants are free to choose public or private health insurance.

Private Health Insurance in Germany

Every person can take out private health insurance as long as the regulations for voluntary health insurance applies to them. This applies to expats that are self-employed, freelancers, students and civil servants, but also to employees who earn above the compulsory insurance limit of €66,600 per year.

The biggest difference from the cost of private health insurance in Germany compared to public health insurance, is that it is based on the age and state of health of the person insured. Apart from this, the cost is mainly determined by the different tariff/coverage included and the deductible amount, among others.

Health Insurance for Self-employed and Freelancers in Germany

Self-employed persons and freelancers are able to join public health insurance voluntarily or private health insurance without any further requirements.

By being insured publicly, you have to pay base contributions of 14.6% plus the additional contribution amount for the chosen health insurance provider. It is also important to note that there is a minimum contribution assessment of €1,096.67 in 2022. This means a minimum of €160.11 + additional contribution is payable per month regardless of your income.

Self-employed persons and freelancers also need to pay the full amount themselves, unlike employees and civil servants who get half the cost covered by their employer. However, if you have a family, the public health insurance includes statutory family insurance. This means you pay nothing extra to include family members under your insurance policy.

Private health insurance is a good solution for many expats. It often provides better benefits at a lower cost compared to public health insurance. However, some things need to be taken into consideration to ensure it is the best choice. A free consultation with an independent insurance broker is recommended to get good independent advice for your situation.

Get connected with the right health insurance provider
We can help you choose the best health insurance in Germany for your needs whether you are employed, self-employed/freelancer or contractor!

Health Insurance for Students in Germany

Students also have a choice between private health insurance or public health insurance in Germany for the duration of their studies. For the majority of expat students are often very cheap because of their age and health condition.

For German students, you may already be covered under the statutory family health insurance, and thus do not need to pay additional insurance coverage. This generally applies to persons up to the age of 25 if they are still in school or vocational training.

Childbirth and Maternity Care in Germany

Generally, public health insurance coverage includes the basic costs of pregnancy and childbirth. For those with private health insurance, your coverage often includes private hospitals and single room accommodation depending on the tariff. It is however important to check prior to giving birth what your insurance covers.

Dental Insurance Coverage in Germany

Public health insurance in Germany covers routine checkups and basic dental care such as fillings and dental hygiene. However, it often covers it only partially and a co-payment is likely to apply. Dental supplement insurance can be taken out with a private health insurance provider to increase your coverage and reduce co-payments.

Private health insurance companies often include dental coverage, even major dental work at private institutions. 

Sick Leave Coverage for Expats in Germany

Employees generally pay a contribution rate of 14.6%, which includes entitlements to sickness benefits from day 43 (6-weeks). It is your employer who pays your salary during this period. After this, the public health insurance pays up to 70% of your salary (up to €3,386 per month before tax) up to a maximum of 78 weeks over a 3-year period.

Self-employed persons and freelancers on the other hand pay a reduced contribution rate of 14% without the right to sickness benefits. This means they have no income for the entire period.

Expats who have private health insurance are often covered in the event of an illness and are covered according to their insurance policy.

How to Apply for Expat Health Insurance

Employees are automatically enrolled into public health insurance with a regional provider. But they can notify their employer if they want to be insured by a specific health insurance prover (Krankenkassen).

Self-employed persons need to arrange their own registration and enrolment with a health insurance provider.

Both the registration of public health insurance and private health insurance is quite straight forward. The main difference between private health insurance is that they require a health condition evaluation by a doctor.

Co-payments and Reimbursements Costs for Expats

When being insured with public health insurance, you will receive a health insurance card (Krankenversichertenkarte) which you will need to show each time you visit a doctor. There are no upfront payments for the services you are covered for.

Although main services such as GP visits, hospital care (inpatient and outpatient), medical treatment, x-rays, sick leave, mental health care, rehabilitation, prescription drugs, and childbirth include, you may be subject to a co-payment, also called "Zusatzzahlungen" when you require medical help. This is usually a one-off payment each quarter of €10. It does not apply for the quarters do not seek medical help.

The expat health insurance in Germany works with a reimbursement method. This means you will have to pay the cost for treatments and medication and present the invoice to the private health insurance company. This is usually a fast process so you would not actually need to pay this from your own pocket. The coverage of costs for your private health insurance depends on your tariff (if the cost is covered 100%) and your deductible (the amount you pay until the remaining is covered). Sometimes it is wise not to claim anything as many private health insurance providers pay back a certain amount of your contributions if nothing is claimed throughout the year.

Top Trending Questions on Expat Health Insurance in Germany

How to get German health insurance as an expat?

To get German health insurance as an expat, you will first need to determine whether you should be on a public or private plan. If you are employed with a salary below €69,300 (as of 2024), you are eligible for public health insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung). You can register through your employer. However, if you earn above this threshold, are self-employed, or a student, you may opt for private health insurance (Private Krankenversicherung). For private insurance, you'll need to research and reach out to private insurers in Germany for quotes and application procedures.

Can foreigners get healthcare in Germany?

Yes, foreigners can get healthcare in Germany. It is mandatory for everyone residing in Germany, including foreigners, to have health insurance. Expats can choose between public and private health insurance depending on their employment status and income. EU citizens with European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) can also access healthcare services in Germany.

How much do Germans pay for their health insurance?

Germans usually pay around 14.6% of their gross income towards public health insurance, which is equally split between the employee and employer. For private health insurance, premiums vary based on factors such as age, health conditions, and the scope of coverage. Private health insurance premiums can range from €100 to over €500 per month.

What health insurance do I need to live in Germany?

To live in Germany, you are required to have either public or private health insurance. Public health insurance is common for employees with an annual income below a certain threshold. If you are self-employed, a student, or earn above the threshold, you may opt for private health insurance, which offers more flexibility in services and doctors.

What are the differences between public and private health insurance in Germany?

Public health insurance in Germany is government-regulated and provides a standard set of healthcare services. It is typically based on your income, and you share the costs with your employer. Private health insurance offers a broader range of healthcare options, often including shorter waiting times and access to specialized treatments. Premiums for private insurance are based on individual risk factors, and there is no employer contribution.

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