German health insurance: what makes sense for you?

No matter what you are doing in Germany, you are required to have some form of health insurance – either public or private. Yet depending at what stage you are in life – employed, self-employed, raising a family or a student – you may have very specific needs from that health insurance.

German health insurance: what makes sense for you?
Photo: Getty Images

Together with digital insurance provider ottonova, we look at what you may require from your compulsory health insurance, depending on your situation – and whether private health insurance could be the right option for you. 

If you’re employed

It’s important that as an international worker, you have the coverage you need to meet your healthcare needs. Whether you’re working part- or full-time, private health insurance (Private Krankenversicherung, or ‘PKV’) gives you important peace of mind to focus on your career, giving you one less thing to worry about while working abroad. 

Compared to public health insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung or ‘GKV’), you are able to access a wider and more-comprehensive range of medications and treatments. If you’re able to meet the income threshold to take out private insurance (€64,350 per year), you can also be sure that you are able to save money, especially when it comes to the premiums you would otherwise be paying in the public health system.

There are a few other things you should keep in mind regarding health insurance as an employee. If you get ill, your employer will pay your salary for six weeks. After that, if you have private health insurance, it will kick in with a daily sickness allowance – the level of which you can decide when taking out cover. 

If your salary drops below the income threshold, you will need to switch to public health insurance. If your situation changes again, you can then apply for an exemption that will allow you to continue with private health insurance. 

On the same topic, while it is generally fairly difficult to switch from private to public health insurance later in life, there are several ways that you can do it without too much of a cost burden, such as switching to a spouse’s or family plan. If you lose your job, you are also able to switch back to public health insurance. Many services also exist to help you navigate between the two systems, depending on your situation. 

Employees who have private health insurance can also access a range of preventative screenings and other treatments that could help you enjoy a healthy, fulfilling career. 

Book a non-binding consultation with one of ottonova’s English-speaking insurance experts today 

If you’re self-employed

If you’re self-employed, or run your own business, you’ll want to carefully consider your options, because if you can’t work, your income will be severely affected. Luckily you benefit from being able to choose between public and private health insurance, if you’re self-employed, or a business owner. 

Private health insurance may make sense as a self-employed person. If you get ill, you won’t only get access to better treatments and more comprehensive care, but you’ll also have access to a daily sickness allowance payed by your insurance – so you’ll be back making your own decisions as soon as possible.

Another possible advantage of private health insurance as a self-employed person is the fact that private policies are very flexible – there are many options that you can choose from, to ensure your specific needs are met. 

With private health insurance you are also able to make preparations for old age and retirement, with such measures as ageing reserves – additional, voluntary payments that can be used towards your later care, keeping your premiums stable in old age. 

Finally, if you’re travelling, you can also rest assured that depending on your tariff, you’ll be covered worldwide. 

If you have a family

If you have a family, nothing is more important than health. If you qualify for private healthcare in Germany, choosing which type of insurance to use is a big decision and you’ll want to carefully weigh up all your options.

Taking out private health insurance for families means that you have access to the best possible healthcare for your partner and children. Concierge services, as offered by a number of providers, means that much of the burden of organising appointments and paperwork can be removed, and you can be reminded of what’s coming up for your family in terms of procedures and treatments.

Private health insurance means that you are able to access top of the line treatments and medications, without restrictions, that clearly meet the needs of your family members.

If you have private health insurance, you also have total control of coverage, deductibles and sickness allowance. You can adjust these when you want, to reflect the changing needs of your family.

Furthermore, you’re likely to save money with private insurance if you have a family. If your family’s combined income is above the annual threshold, you will pay the maximum premium within public health system for procedures, treatments and preventive examinations.

Safeguard your family and yourself and arrange a no-obligation consultation with ottonova’s English-speaking experts

Photo: Getty Images

If you’re a student 

As a student, you’re just starting your journey and life, and you’re far more flexible in your needs than later in life. It’s a good thing, then, that as a student you have the option to choose either public or private insurance. Many employees don’t have this option, so it’s really worth weighing up your options if you have the chance – you can sign up to three months after enrolment at university. You also have another opportunity when your family insurance ends.

While not many students have private health insurance, joining early is an excellent decision. This is because your premiums are based on the age that you join. Premiums as a student also don’t include any ageing provisions, making them even cheaper. Best of all, student tariffs can be accessed until age 37.

If you’re not sure whether private health insurance is right for you at this time, you might also like to consider supplementary insurance, such as dental or hospitalization insurance, which can fill the gaps of your public insurance coverage and give you extra peace of mind, when you need it.

A smart choice, entirely in English 

When choosing private health insurance, there are a number of good reasons to consider ottonovaFirst, almost everything from your individual coverage, daily sickness allowance, doctors appointments and so on can be controlled from the ottonova app – it’s a totally digital service.

Second, all services and the app are entirely in English, reminding you of upcoming appointments and organising all your relevant medical documentation. Operating through an app allows lightning-fast reimbursement of medical bills up to €500 within 48 hours, on weekdays. 

Your English-speaking concierge helps you through all aspects of the German healthcare system, and assists you in accessing the best healthcare available, like finding English-speaking doctors, and securing appointments with specialists promptly.

Finally, you’re able to access supplementary insurance through ottonova that you can use to provide extra coverage for your public health insurance, in areas such as dental and hospitalization, and also benefit from all digital services.

Explore ottonova’s wide range of private health insurance solutions with one of their English-speaking experts and take control of your healthcare

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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, which can currently be up to 2.5 percent.

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

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