Healthcare in Germany: the time-saving tech for expats

Think of Germany and most people think of an uber-efficient nation. But expats living in Europe‘s economic powerhouse are sometimes surprised by the variations in healthcare provision.

Healthcare in Germany: the time-saving tech for expats
Photo: Getty

Now, ottonova private health insurance is capturing the technological zeitgeist with its innovative digital solutions.

Patients wait an average of four days to see a primary care doctor in Germany, according to a 2018 study. Most practices are traditionally closed on Wednesday afternoons and at weekends. With 85 percent of people relying on public health insurance, these factors have led to overcrowded hospital emergency departments.

Germany is reforming its healthcare system to tackle these problems. But the changes, along with a high proportion of people aged over 65, are contributing to rising public healthcare costs. Here are six ways choosing ottonova private health insurance for expats earning €62,550+ a year could save you time – and worry.

Health insurance made easy: find out how ottonova could save you time and worry

1. Concierge support in English

You are feeling a little “kaputt” and know you should see a doctor. But the thought of struggling to get through on the phone followed by 30 minutes in a waiting room – the average wait with public insurance in Germany – is making you delay. Sound familiar? 

Smart, digital technology now dominates our lives. But when it comes to health, even millennials seem stuck on analogue; only 4 percent plan doctor’s appointments online, according to a Forsa Institute study for ottonova. Yet 71 percent say they would use a fully digital health insurance service.

Ottonova offers exactly that, starting with its app and dedicated concierge team. Just pick up your handy (mobile phone), open the app and instantly chat with a named team member for anything about your health and insurance.

Whether you have an urgent need or want a preventive checkup, your concierge can find the right doctor and quickly arrange an appointment. Digitalization speeds things up – but the human touch remains crucial to making customers‘ lives easier.

2. Doctor video consultations – within minutes 

You have a tight schedule you can‘t change – or suddenly feel so poorly that you want to stay in bed. Neither possibility poses a problem with ottonova private health insurance, which offers video consultations with English-speaking doctors. The waiting time is often under a minute from making a request to the concierge and the service is available 365 days a year.

Getting an instant diagnosis and treatment plan via video can help you manage your work, family and social life. Plus, you can get a sick note – which German employers typically require within one to three days – the same day. Now that’s what we call uber-efficient!

Tired of waiting to see a doctor? Find out more about ottonova's time-saving video consultations

Photo: Getty 

3. One app – and no paperwork

As an expat, you’re probably familiar with how frustrating bureaucracy can be. With ottonova, there is no need to worry about misplacing an important document or missing an appointment. You can go paperless by signing up online and using the app, where documents and events appear in a simple overview. Pharmacy and doctor’s visits, prescriptions, concierge chats and incapacity certificates can all be called up whenever needed. 

You can also scan and upload invoices for fast processing. Want to check exactly what your tariff covers? Or send a certificate of contributions to the tax office to support your tax deductions? You’ll find what you need in the app. 

4. English-speaking doctors and staff

Even if you are studying hard to impress with your German, some situations require zero room for misunderstanding. With ottonova private health insurance, you can have all your health-related questions answered in English.

The English-speaking concierge team are available via the app or by phone. Most importantly, they can arrange appointments with English-speaking doctors, either in person or via video call. You can then discuss your symptoms and treatment without feeling you are sitting a German oral exam.

5. Rapid reimbursement 

Consumers have a growing choice of instant ways to pay businesses. But this emphasis on speed is sometimes mysteriously lacking when funds must travel in the opposite direction. Not with ottonova, which can again save you valuable time. Simply upload your invoice via the app and you can expect to receive your money before you even have to pay your bill. Many customers receive the money within hours, while the vast majority of verified invoices are reimbursed within two working days. 

6. Faster access to specialists

Getting an appointment with a specialist often requires a referral (or Überweisung) from a general practitioner. One study found patients with public health insurance waited nearly four times as long as the privately insured – and 17 times as long in the worst instance. It also found the gap was widening.

But when you are insured with ottonova, you can ask the concierge team to arrange an appointment with a nearby specialist without a referral – and you'll often get one within a few days. Your concierge can also help you quickly get a second opinion; for example, prior to undergoing surgery.

As every doctor knows, prevention is better than cure. In the app, you will also find ottonova’s top tips for staying healthy. After all, there is one thing even more precious than your time: your health.

Get a free, non-binding consultation with ottonova to help you take an informed decision about your future healthcare coverage in Germany – find out how to get your personal consultation now

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by ottonova.

For members


Why more than 20 million people in Germany face higher health insurance costs

Several German health insurance companies have raised their rates this year, pushing up the costs for customers.

Many people are facing higher health insurance contributions this year.
Many people are facing higher health insurance contributions this year. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Jan Woitas

According to a study by the comparison portal Check24, around 21 million people with statutory health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung or GKV) have had to pay higher contributions since the beginning of the year after several organisations raised their additional contributions. 

A total of 19 of the 97 statutory health insurance providers in Germany have increased their additional contributions, the comparison portal found.

It means more than a quarter of the 73 million people with statutory health insurance in Germany have to pay higher additional contributions. 

According to Check24, the higher additional contributions can cost an insured person in the most expensive case an extra €261 per year.

Among those to have raised their additional contributions include AOK Baden-Württemberg and AOK Bayern, which have both increased the additional contributions from 1.10 percent to 1.30 percent. Check24 has published the full list of additional contributions here.

Customers affected receive a letter in the post letting them know when their contributions are increasing. Health insurance providers justify raising their rates by pointing out rising costs in the health and care system. The pandemic has also put significant strain on providers. 

READ ALSO: How to make the most of reward schemes on your German health insurance

A total of 67 health insurance providers are keeping their individual additional contribution the same. And as many as 11 health insurance funds lowered their contributions – although most of these already had comparatively high rates.

In 2021, Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), the largest statutory health insurance fund in Germany with around 8.2 million members, raised its additional contribution significantly.

The contribution went up to 1.2 percent from 0.7 percent. Average earners saw additional monthly costs of about €10 extra, while self-employed people had to pay up to €288 more per year. 

TK has not raised its rates this year. 

Can you switch health insurance?

If your health insurance company increases the additional contribution, those insured have a special right of termination until January 31st, 2022.

They can apply for the change up until this date, and they will then become a member of the new health insurance provider from April 1st after the statutory two month change-over period has expired.

Insured people also have the right to change their statutory health insurance fund every 12 months.

The cost of public health insurance in Germany is a fixed salary percentage of 14.6 percent, while the reduced contribution rate for employees without entitlement to sick pay is 14.0 per cent.

Beyond that, however, health insurance providers set an additional contribution.

The contribution assessment ceiling for statutory health insurance (GKV) – up to which contributions are levied – remains unchanged at €58,050 per year in 2022, as in the previous year.

Check24 said that switching providers can save employees up to €624 per year depending on their income.

Self-employed people pay both the employee and employer contribution and can therefore save up to €1,248 euros per year by switching, the analysis found. 

However in a representative YouGov survey only 11 percent of respondents in Germany said they had recently changed their insurance provider or would do so in the foreseeable future.

Most of the benefits provided by statutory health insurance organisations are identical.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The three new services covered by German health insurance

However, there are some differences in the voluntary benefits, including dental health (professional dental cleaning and discounted dentures), vaccinations (flu vaccinations for under 60s and travel vaccinations), various cancer screening examinations and osteopathic treatments.

“In addition to the financial relief, insured people can also secure higher subsidies for professional dental cleaning or other additional benefits by switching,” said Dr Daniel Güssow, Managing Director of statutory health insurers at Check24.


Additional contributions (die) Zusatzbeiträge

Right of termination – (das) Kündigungsrecht 

Benefits (die) Leistungen

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.