As an expat in Germany, you will need to prove that you have health insurance. Whether you are a student, a freelancer, a foreign worker, or an asylum seeker, registering for the health system in Germany is just another part of living there as an expat.The process of registering with a doctor in Germany is not always straightforward, so it is worth doing as much research upfront as you can before you move.
Who Needs To Register?
Germany has very strict rules around health insurance. All expats living in the country must have proof of health insurance before they can appy for residency.
If you are moving to Germany from the EU, the EEA or Switzerland, you will be able to use your EHIC card as a temporary measure while you wait for your public healthcare to come through. However, this is only meant to be used in emergencies, so it is worth taking out private insurance to cover you in the interim period.
There are two categories of health insurance available in Germany. The type of residency you have and your reason for moving to Germany will determine which type of insurance you will need.
Public Health Insurance In Germany
German public health insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) is the most common type of health insurance in Germany. This is for residents who work or live long-term in Germany and make up to €60,750 a year. This figure changes year-on-year, so be sure to double-check the upper limit before you apply.
If you are planning to sign up for public health insurance, contributions will be taken out of your gross salary at a rate of 14.6%. 7.3% is paid by your employer, and 7.3% will come out of your pay cheque. Your employer will typically sign you up with the public health system automatically, and you should receive details as soon as you have signed your work contract.
Public healthcare covers all your primary care needs, including inpatient and outpatient hospital needs and basic dental care. More complex dental procedures; visits to the optician; and any supplementary healthcare you opt for will require additional payments.
Dependants who live at the same address and do not work will be covered under the insurance holder’s plan for no extra cost.
Private Health Insurance In Germany
Private health cover in Germany is known as Private Krankenversicherung. Anyone can take out private cover, but if you earn more than €60,750 you will be required to pay for your own healthcare.
Some people choose to take out private cover even if they have public healthcare as well. Private plans are more customizable for individual needs, and there is typically a wider range of choice when it comes to medical options. Some policies will cover additional extras such as dentistry.
Your employer is required to sign you up to a health insurance system when you join the company. Most will sign you up to public healthcare, but some will have agreements will private insurers.
The cost of your premium will be based on several factors, including your age and whether you have any pre-existing conditions.
Now that you know the different healthcare options available to foreigners who reside in Germany, it’s time to register. In many cases, your work will register you automatically. However, if your residency in Germany is not tied to employment at a German company, then you will need to take care of it yourself.
Registering may be frustrating as the process can be quite bureaucratic, but as long as you follow each step, you should not encounter too many issues. If you do not speak German, you might want to hire an interpreter while you look through different options, to make sure you understand what is available.
In order to register for public healthcare in Germany, you will need proof of residency; but in order to apply for residency, you will need proof of health cover. Most expats address this conundrum by taking out private health insurance to cover them until they have residency. Once you have your proof of residency, you can follow the steps below to register with the public system.
Step 1: Register At The Town Hall
The first step is to visit your local town hall, also known as Einwohnermeldeamt (registration office) or Ausländeramtin (foreign office), and register as a resident. Once you have done this you will get a social insurance number, known as a Sozialversicherungsnummer. Once you start paying taxes using your social insurance number, you will be eligible to apply for the public health system.
Step 2: Register With The Health Insurance Fund
Once you have your residence permit and social security number, the next step is to register with the health insurance fund. An insurance broker can walk you through this process. Once you have registered at the health insurance fund you will receive your health insurance card, known as Krankenversichertenkarte in German.
Step 3: Consider Other Alternatives
Although the process of applying for German health insurance may seem straightforward, many expats report that it can be very difficult. The conundrum of needing health insurance in order to get residency and needing residency to get insurance leads most expats to take out private insurance when they first arrive; and once they have officially registered, switching over to the public health system down the road can be challenging.
Large international insurers like Aetna International or Cigna Global can be a good place to start, but keep in mind that not all insurers are accepted by German immigration officials.
To avoid any problems later on, those who are thinking of moving to Germany should start talking to an insurance broker before moving.
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