Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide

Moving or traveling to Germany, or planning on studying there? Learn more about what how the right health insurance can help you pursue your dreams in Deutschland.

Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
File photo: Pixabay

Are you a foreign student prepared to enrol in a German higher education institution? Or a foreign Ph.D. candidate fully dedicated in your thesis and dreaming of an academic career or a research job?

Maybe you’re headed to Germany to close an important business deal, or a foreign employee who will soon start a job with a company in Germany. Or perhaps you’re simply a passionate traveller longing to experience Germany first-hand.

Regardless of how long you want to stay in Germany, your purpose, occupation, or residence status – chances are you need to be covered by adequate health insurance, either statutory (public) or private, issued by a licensed provider in Germany.

When you, as an expat, enter Germany, the next step to legitimise your stay is getting the proper residence permit at your local foreigners' registration office (Ausländeramt). And in order to get that permit you’ll be asked to show proof of adequate health insurance coverage and a certificate of health known as “Gesundheitszeugnis für Aufenthaltserlaubnis”, issued by a doctor in Germany.

If you don’t provide the required documents, including proof of health insurance coverage, your permit will be denied. And that means your chance to work, study, or simply live legally in Germany will be dashed.

So now that you know the rules, where to start? Below is a quick guide that will walk you through what you need to know about health insurance in Germany.

Who needs Statutory (Public) and who needs a Private Health Insurance?

The majority of the resident population in Germany is required to hold statutory health insurance.

Exceptions from the statutory health insurance requirement include guest scientists, post-graduate students, scholarship holders (without an employment contract), college students, participants in language courses, students age 30 or above, and those who have been studying in Germany for more than 14 semesters.

If you fall into one of these categories, than MAWISTA Student could be the perfect private health insurance for you.

MAWISTA Student is tailored for students, guest scientists, interns, and accompanying family members. Click here for more information on MAWISTA Student.

In addition, people who are regularly self-employed and haven’t previously been enrolled in a statutory health insurance plan must also be covered by private health insurance.

Private health insurance providers, in addition to basic medical care, offer many services that statutory health insurance providers often lack. For example, private providers like MAWISTA can provide access to a wider range of medical treatments, as they can offer coverage or reimbursement of costs for private rooms, private doctors, surgeons, dental implants and other medical situations.

But I’m not a student. What kind of insurance do I need?

Maybe your days of studying are over and you’re working, thriving, and living the dream in Deutschland. There’s an option for you, too: MAWISTA Employee, which is designed for foreigners up to age 66 who are staying for a maximum of five years in Germany.

Are you a foreign employee, freelancer, or simply an expat? Click here for more information about MAWISTA Employee and see if it’s the right fit for you.

What kind of private health insurance do I need just to visit Germany?

If you are not from the EU, Austrialia, Israel, Japan, Canada, USA, Republic of South Korea, or New Zeland, you will need to get a proper visa before visiting Germany.

When applying to get a visitor visa, amongst other documents, you need to submit evidence of adequate health insurance for the period of your stay – typically up to 90 days. The German embassy or consulate in your country also requires your health insurance provides mininmum coverage of €30,000 for medical treatement.

If you need health insurance for the purpose of getting a tourist visa, MAWISTA Visum could be right for you. This insurance is designed for tourists and business travellers.
Click here for more information.

If you have any question or concern choosing the appropriate product, you can always contact MAWISTA team directly!

This article was sponsored by MAWISTA.

For members


What you should know about Germany’s plans to roll out e-prescriptions

Germany is taking a big step towards a more digital-friendly health system, with plans to roll out e-prescriptions nationwide. Here's what you should know.

A person holds the e-Rezept app in a pharmacy in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony.
A person holds the e-Rezept app in a pharmacy in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mohssen Assanimoghaddam

What’s happening?

From January 1st 2022, people in Germany will receive their prescriptions digitally (known in Germany as an ‘e-Rezept’) from healthcare providers.

Patients should be able to get their prescription from their doctor via a QR code sent to an app, which can then be transmitted to a pharmacy. The pharmacy can then let the patient know whether their medicine is in stock (or if they want to order it), and when it is ready for collection. 

This model is to be mandatory for people with statutory health insurance from the start of 2022, replacing the good old paper prescription.

However, the QR code can also be given to the patient by the doctor on a piece of paper if a patient does not have access to or doesn’t want to use a smartphone. 

READ ALSO: The changes around doctors notes in Germany you should know 

How exactly will it work?

In theory this is the plan – you’ll visit the doctor or have a video consultation. After the examination, the doctor will issue you with an electronic prescription for the medication that has been prescribed to you. 

A prescription code is automatically created for each ‘e-Rezept’, which you will need so you can get the medicine at the pharmacy. As we mentioned above, patients in Germany can either open this QR code in the free e-prescription app developed by Gematik and the Health Ministry, or receive it as a printout from the doctor. 

Next, you can take the prescription QR code (either in the app or as a printout) to your pharmacy of choice to get the medication needed.

One of the major differences and timesavers under the new system is that you can also select the pharmacy you want to get the prescription from digitally, order the medication (if needed) and you’ll be alerted when the prescription is ready. You can also arrange to have it delivered if needed. 

A doctor’s signature is not required, as e-prescriptions are digitally signed. 

The aim is that it will save on paperwork, time at the medical office and trips to the pharmacy. 

Some patients have already been receiving digital prescriptions. The ‘e-Rezept’ was tested out successfully in selected practices and pharmacies with a focus on the Berlin-Brandenburg region of Germany. The test phase started on July 1st this year.

Pharmacies and doctors’ offices nationwide have also been given the opportunity to test the new system from the start of December. 

“This will enable practice providers and pharmacy management systems to better prepare for the mandatory launch on January 2022 1st,” said, the official health portal site for German pharmacies

The new e-prescription app.
The new e-prescription app. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mohssen Assanimoghaddam

READ ALSO: 10 rules to know if you get sick in Germany

There is some leeway though – if there are technical difficulties, paper prescriptions can still be issued in individual cases until the end of June next year.

The National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians estimates that it could take until mid-2022 until all users are equipped with e-prescription applications nationwide.

The obligation does not apply to privately insured people from January next year. Private insurance companies can decide voluntarily to make the preparations for their customers to use the e-prescription.

What’s this about an app?

To be able to receive and redeem prescriptions electronically, people with statutory health insurance need the Gematik ‘das e-Rezept’ app. 

One issue is that the app appears to only be available at the moment in German app stores. We’ll try and find out if there are plans to change this and widen out the access, but it seems likely for that to happen. 

Germany’s Covid-Warn app, for example, was initially only open to German app stores but was gradually widened out to many others. 

As mentioned above though, those who don’t have access to an app will be able to use the paper with the code on it to access their prescriptions. 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

Has it all gone smoothly?

As you might expect, there have been a few hiccups. 

Originally, the introduction nationwide was planned for October but was postponed due to many providers not having all the tech requirements set up. 

Now though, more than 90 percent of the practice management systems have been certified by the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians – a prerequisite to issue the e-prescriptions.

The e-prescription is part of Germany’s far-reaching plans to digitise and streamline the health care system.

The head of Gematik GmbH, Markus Leyck Dieken, recently spoke of a “new era” that is “finally starting for doctors and patients” in Germany. 

Useful vocabulary:

Prescription – (das) Rezept

Doctor’s office/practice – (die) Arztpraxis

To order – bestellen 

Pharmacy – (die) Apotheke

Video consultation – (die) Videosprechstunde