In Germany, insurance is a big deal. It may be more insurance than you are used to compared to living in other countries, but it will give you the calm feeling of being prepared for any eventuality. From the legally required health insurance, to the more surprising personal liability insurance, we have the guides and recommendations that describe all of them in detail below. Don't be left out; take the time to set it up now and relax in the future.
What you need to know
What are the most important types of insurance to get in Germany?
In Germany, there are two types of insurance which by law are mandatory:
- health insurance
- liability insurance for motor vehicles.
If you are planning to spend more than six months in the country however, you will definitely also want to consider investing in a household/home insurance policy to indemnify any loss or damage of your belongings. You will find the answers to any potential questions you may have regarding these types of insurance below. An extensive section is devoted to the topic of health insurance.
In Germany it is also quite common to get private liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung), as this kind of insurance is inexpensive (100 € a year) but offers good coverage. It provides protection for you in case of any kind of accidental negligence that causes an accident or damage to property, like your washing machine leaking water into the floor of your apartment, for example. Any damage claims could potentially be high, so this inexpensive insurance is peace of mind for a modest price.
Why is it mandatory to have health insurance coverage in Germany?
Healthcare is considered to be extremely expensive in Germany, so one of your first priorities should be ensuring that you are covered for any medical eventualities. As of the 1st of January 2009, anyone who resides in Germany is required to possess health insurance coverage from a provider licensed within Germany. As health insurance is mandatory for all employees and students in Germany, you will be unable to start working or studying without it. An important component of any application for a residency permit is proof of health insurance.
Holders of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) are entitled to receive medical treatment under the same terms as German citizens. However if they plan to stay in the country longer than a year, it is highly advisable that they sign up for insurance with a local health insurance provider.
What are my options for health insurance in Germany?
Unlike in many other countries, in Germany public and private health insurance system work in parallel:
1. Public health insurance:
This is run by the German government. Most foreigners (and Germans) are obliged to take out public health insurance. Employees, their dependents, students and trainees normally join the public system. Public insurance payments are income-based and will be deducted from your paychecks by an employer, whilst any dependents (spouses or children) you may have will be covered for free. Public insurance is also ideal for those with pre-existing medical conditions, as by law they cannot be denied entry to Germany based on their condition.
2. Private health insurance:
This applies only to specific cases. Self-employed / freelancers or government employees usually join the private health system. Private insurance is based on your age and personal risk factors, so if you’re healthy and young this option may be cheaper. Coverage for dependent spouses or children requires additional payment, and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be declined coverage. Overall, private insurance offers a more extensive coverage, but it may not be advantageous to all cases.
Almost everyone is entitled to join the public health insurance scheme, however only few people are allowed to leave this system for private insurance. To find out which insurance scheme is best for you, we recommend that you:
- Find out whether you are eligible to choose between private and public insurance. If you are only allowed to join the public system, it will be irrelevant for you to compare it with private insurance.
- If you are allowed to use private health insurance, we advise you to still assess the advantages and disadvantages of both systems before you make a final decision.
For whom is public health insurance mandatory?
The following groups must be covered by Public Health Insurance (gesetzliche Krankenkasse) in Germany:
- Employees whose regular income exceeds € 450 per month before deductions, and remains below € 4,463 per month. If you are employed and earning up to a gross salary of € 53,330 per year, you must be therefore be insured by a public health insurance company.
- Students attending state and state-approved universities.The current premium for health and nursing care starts at € 78.50 per month for a local student over the age of 23 with no children. International students can benefit from a temporary private insurance plan from around 30 Euro a month in the first 18 months of their stay in Germany.
- People on work experience (internships) or in secondary education.
- Old-age pensioners who have participated in a public health insurance scheme, or have been insured as a family member for the majority of the latter half of their working life.
- Unemployed people who are receiving benefits from the Federal Employment Services (Bundesagentur für Arbeit).
- More information: http://www.bmg.bund.de/krankenversicherung.html.
You may additionally, within a period of three months from your arrival in Germany, join a state health insurance scheme voluntarily if you:
- Have previously been a compulsory member but your membership is now terminated, and you have specific certified insurance periods.
- Are an employee and your income from your first employment in Germany exceeds the governmental yearly limit.
- Are gravely disabled.
- Have been insured through a family member for a specified minimum period and this insurance has expired.
*Students originating from countries with which Germany has concluded a social security agreement and which includes a specific insurance clause, may continue to be covered by their home insurance company during their stay in Germany. For an updated list of these countries please visit: http://www.dvka.de/oeffentlicheseiten/Fremdsprachen/Englisch.htm
For more detailed information on statutory insurance in Germany please visit: www.bmgs.bund.de
How does the public health insurance system in Germany work?
Public health insurance is supplied by a network of non-profit companies which work together with the German state to administer the National Health program (Gesetzliche Krankenkassen).
Your public health insurance contributions will generally be calculated as a percentage of your average income. This percentage is capped at a certain income level which reflects the average national income in Germany. Fifty percent of the entire social security contribution (including health insurance) will paid by your employer, and fifty percent by you.
The insurance company you choose will issue you a health insurance card, which you will have to bring with you whenever you visit a doctor, dentist or specialist. The service provided by public health insurance funds predominantly offers outpatient services, hospital care, pharmaceuticals and remedies & rehabilitation services. Those who are covered by this insurance scheme are entitled to any services and benefits within the legal parameters set by the German law.
There are no territorial limitations to receiving access to these benefits within Germany, but there are differences between the levels of service offered by individual health insurance funds.
Under public health insurance you are free to choose your own health care provider. All those insured will have access to any accredited health care providers (alternative health providers are not covered by statutory health insurance). Some of these are:
- Doctors and Dentists: General Practitioners and specialists may be consulted, although usually your GP will be responsible for referring you as a patient to a specialist or hospital.
- Hospitals: all levels of hospital are covered; hospital care is usually provided on referral by a GP or a specialist, or directly in case of emergency.
- Pharmaceuticals and prescriptions medicine: these will be available in pharmacies, with co-payment according to package size.
Public health insurance will also cover any dependent children or spouse (with no income), at no extra cost.
*In addition to your public health insurance it will also be mandatory for you to subscribe to nursing care insurance. The nursing care insurance normally adheres to your health insurance scheme. The obligatory nursing care insurance contribution rate in 2014 is 2.3 % for any fund (with children 2.05 %). 50 % of this will also be paid by your employer.
For more information see: http://www.bmg.bund.de/krankenversicherung.html
Who can choose to opt for private health insurance and how does it work?
Anyone not belonging to the categories mentioned, and for whom public insurance is therefore mandatory, will be able to select a private insurance scheme. Private health insurance contributions will not be based on your income, but rather on your risk profile. Calculations are based on the average cost for medical treatment for different groups. Therefore the older you are, the higher your contributions will be. Contributions are always equally split between employer and employee, independent of whether you are in a private or public insurance scheme.
When privately insured, rather than being automatically covered, you will most likely be paying doctor’s fees and medicine costs and subsequently sending receipts to your insurance company for reimbursement.
Private health insurance schemes provide more extensive cover than state health insurance scheme. You will often be offered the option of choosing private/semi-private hospitals, alternative therapies, glasses and contact lenses and any other treatments that may not be available under statutory health insurance.
At the doctor, privately insured patients will often receive preferential treatment compared to state insured patients, and with private insurance you won't be expected to pay any additional co-payments for medicines and treatments.
* Switching back from private to state insurance may be very difficult! Before you make this decision, you should therefore carefully consider whether this system would truly benefit you.
How can I choose the best health insurance for me?
There are an endless number of public and private insurance companies in Germany. Choosing the one that will suit you best will depend on which criteria you value the most e.g. price, coverage, family planning or preventative care. Below is a list of some of the most popular public and private health insurance companies to get you started:
Public Health Insurance Companies:
- Techniker Krankenkasse
- BARMER GEK
- BKK Mobil Oil
- HKK Erste Gesundheit
- IKK Brandenburg und Berlin
- Shell BKK/LIFE
Private Health Insurance Companies:
- Huk Coburg
- Gothaer Krankenversicherung
- Inter Krankenversicherung
- Signal Iduna
- Axa Krankenversicherung
- Deutscher Ring
- ENVIVAS Krankenverischerung
- SONO Krankenversicherung
Will my company / employer provide health insurance for me, if I have a full-time job in Germany?
Yes. When you are a full-time employee in Germany, your company or employer will deduct your insurance payments from your paychecks as well as making an employer contribution. If you make above € 4,463 per month (for 2014) you will automatically go into the public system. How much your payments will amount to will be based on how much you earn. All you have to do is tell your employer which health insurance company you wish to use and they will register you with them.
How does car insurance work in Germany?
If you own a car or motorcycle, you are required by German law to have motor vehicle liability insurance (Autohaftpflichtversicherung), as you will not be allowed to register your vehicle without it. Your insurance certificate (Versicherungszertifikat) must be carried by you at all times and there are penalties for drivers of vehicles without valid insurance. This insurance pays for personal injury, material damage and property loss if you cause an accident or injure someone while driving your car. The cost of the insurance premium will depend on factors such as the type of vehicle (car or motorcycle), its age, and the number of years you have been driving without an accident. For more information regarding the classification of your vehicle in relation to your insurance premium please visit Typklassenverzeichnis and Regionalklassen Abfrage.
If you have a good driving record in your home country you can get credit for it in Germany, just make sure you have a letter from your insurance agent back home. There is no requirement for a driver in Germany to also have third party liability insurance, but more comprehensive motor vehicle liability insurance can also include this. Kasko, for example, is available as Teilkaskoversicherung, third party insurance which covers fire and theft and Vollkaskoversicherung, which is fully comprehensive.
Here are a few popular car insurance companies in Germany if you would like to find out more:
* For a stay of up to one year, you are not required to take out a German car insurance policy if you possess an international ‘green insurance certificate’, or if your car has a registration number from one of the following countries: EU member-countries, Greenland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, the Vatican.
How does home insurance in Germany work?
Household contents insurance (Hausratversicherung), is useful in order to protect you in the eventuality of loss or damage to your possessions. It normally covers all of the belongings contained in your home, such as furniture (including built-in kitchen units), clothes, valuable, sports equipment, and computers for personal use. Fixtures and fittings attached to the building and not owned by you are generally excluded as these are the responsibility of your landlord or the house owner under their own separate insurance policy.
The household contents insurance coverage normally includes the risks of fire, burglary, storm damage, water damage and/ vandalism. The risk of fire, water damage and theft from your home in your absence increases the longer you are away, so it is highly advisable that you notify your insurer if you intend to leave your premises for longer than 60 days. Some policies also include limited cover for damage caused by electrical surges. The insurance sum is normally calculated using the replacement value of all your belongings. The premiums for any household insurance cover depend on the area in which you live, the value of your possessions and the benefit levels you wish to have.
Bicycle thefts are a serious problem in Berlin, so if you are planning to ride a bicycle we recommend that you purchase additional insurance if your household insurance doesn’t already include coverage for bicycle theft.
Here are a few links to some well-known German home insurance companies:
*Be aware that German household contents or home insurances with either a three or five year terms may not be cancelled before the term is up! We therefore highly advise you to buy only annually renewable policies so that you will be able to switch at the renewal date if a more attractive or a better quality insurance cover becomes available.
Do I need private liability insurance?
Personal liability insurance (Privathaftpflichtversicherung) is a part of Germany’s general insurance system of risk financing and offers protection against third party insurance claims. It protects policyholders against damage or loss that the holder may unintentionally cause to another person in the form of injury or property damage. This insurance is not mandatory by law, but we strongly recommend getting it. It is a very affordable insurance, at yearly rates of around 100 €, but can be very important in avoiding serious expenses, such as major accidental damage to an apartment you are renting. Foreign students holding a personal liability insurance in their home country should check whether this insurance covers them while they are in Germany. Latest test results on personal liability insurance can be checked out on the website of Stiftung Warentest here (December 2014). According to this test, the best insurance policies are:
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