Cost of private health insurance in Germany spikes in the pandemic

German residents who rely on private rather than public health insurance have been hit with a steep rise in fees this year, new figures show.

Cost of private health insurance in Germany spikes in the pandemic
Archive photo shows a doctor with a patient in Stuttgart. Photo: DPA

Within a year private health insurance has become noticeably more expensive, research by the Federal Statistical Office shows.

In March of this year, payments for private health insurance were 5.3 percent higher than in March 2020.

Contributions also rose sharply at the turn of the year. In January 2021 they were 4.9 percent higher than in December 2020, reported the Federal Statistical Office.

The increase was well above the level of the previous turn of the year – from December 2019 to January 2020 there was a 2.6 percent rise, while a year earlier the increase was 1.7 percent.

READ ALSO: Should Germany get rid of private health insurance?

Why has it gone up so much?

The Federal Statistical Office cites growing health care costs, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the permanently low interest rate level – which is causing problems for private insurers – as reasons for the increase. 

According to researchers, this year’s spike represents a long-term trend. Since 2015, private health insurance contributions have risen by 24.7 percent, while general inflation in this period was only 9.1 percent.

Official figures show around 8.8 million people in Germany have private health insurance, which corresponds to 11.2 percent of the population.

Those who opt for private health insurance are mainly high-income earners, civil servants, international students and the self-employed.

But many foreigners in Germany who don’t earn a large amount have to go private because it can be difficult to get on to public health insurance if you aren’t born in Germany, and you are freelance or in some cases a foreign student.

Staff positions offer employees the chance to join a public health insurance provider. Employers then contribute to their employees’ health costs.

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


Private health insurance – (die) private Krankenversicherung (PKV)

Statutory health insurance – (die) gesetzliche Krankenversicherung (GKV)

Contributions/fees – (die) Beiträge

Increases – (die) Steigerungen

Turn of the year – (der) Jahreswechsel 

Long-term trend – (der) langfristige Trend 

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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.