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HEALTH

Reader question: How can I change my German health insurance provider?

The German health insurance system can be a difficult system to navigate, especially for foreigners. We looked at how and why you might want to consider changing your health insurance provider.

A German doctor taking part in a video consultation.
A German doctor taking part in a video consultation. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Monika Skolimowska

Do I need health insurance in Germany?

If you live in Germany then it is a legal requirement to hold health insurance. That can be as part of the statutory public health insurance system (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) or private (private Krankenversicherung). 

The majority of Germans – around 89 percent – have public health insurance. The providers are often called Krankenkassen.

Okay, is it possible to change my Krankenkasse?

Foreigners in Germany who may be unfamiliar with the German system are often unaware that they are able to change their health insurance provider. Perhaps they joined one of the big companies like Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) or AOK and have stayed with them ever since arriving in Germany. 

But it’s worth keeping in mind that there are alternatives out there. 

Why would I change, and is it actually possible?

Health insurance providers regularly raise their additional contributions (Zusatzbeitrag) meaning you have to pay more. The providers usually announce their rates for the coming 12 months at the start of the year.

At the start of 2022, one in four people in Germany saw an increase in their health insurance contributions.

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

Those who are affected by increases are given a special right of termination which applies until the end of the month when the health insurance introduced the new contribution rate.

But do not despair, because it is possible to change your Krankenkasse after this point.

The only requirement is a minimum membership of 12 months. So if you’ve been a member of a health insurance provider for a year, you can switch. This period was reduced from 18 months in January 2021, giving consumers a better deal. 

Knowing how difficult it can be to cancel contracts in Germany, it’s fairly simple to switch providers.

Once you have found a suitable health insurance provider, you apply for membership. 

A person holds a German Krankenkasse card while making a phone call.

A person holds a German Krankenkasse card while making a phone call. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

After receiving the application, the new health insurance company calculates the notice period and informs the previous health insurance firm of the wish to change. The previous health insurance company then informs you of the end date of the current insurance contract. 

You can inform your employer about the switch. 

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

This has been made easier since 2021 – before this point you had to provide notice of cancellation to your health insurance provider before switching. 

Keep in mind that public health insurance providers are not allowed to reject anyone on the basis of their health or age. However, there are restrictions for older privately insured people who want to switch to public.

Can I actually save money?

It is definitely possible, but you have to weigh it against the benefits that the health insurance providers offer. 

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

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.

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

But it may be that you want to see what other options are out there to bring the costs down, especially because the costs of living have gone up recently.

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. Self-employed people pay both the employee and employer contribution, though they can get support from the state if they work in a creative profession. 

Beyond that, health insurance providers set an additional contribution (as we mentioned above), which can currently be up to 2.5 percent.

A German doctor with a stethoscope round her neck.

A German doctor with a stethoscope round her neck. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Soeren Stache

The cheapest nationwide health insurance provider is the HKK with a contribution rate total of just under 15.3 percent, reports German news site RND. Those insured with DAK or Barmer pay 16.1 per cent.

With an average gross income (€3,300 per month), this can make a difference of around €160 per year. If you subtract income tax, you save more than €110.

Check with online comparison sites, talk to a health insurance broker or do your research with different companies to find out the best prices for you.

But it might not just be about cost. Perhaps you feel the service in your current health insurance provider isn’t up to scratch, or you’d like to try one of the smaller companies. Or perhaps you want to consider joining a company that provides an English-speaking service. 

One thing to keep in mind is that if you have recently received approval from your insurance provider for a health procedure, but haven’t started it yet, you will have to go through that approval process again if you want to change. 

What about private health insurance?

If you’re insured privately, you can change tariffs, but check that you will be able to afford any rising premiums in future. 

If you are insured under the German public scheme and start to earn more than €64,350 per year, you can change to private health insurance, or you can remain as part of a Krankenkasse with the status of a ‘voluntary member’, and will have to pay the maximum premium.

This report is intended as a guide only and should not take the place of advice from a qualified advisor. Got any questions? Get in touch at [email protected]

Member comments

  1. If only my HR department had clearly explained to me about private health insurance when I was transferred to Germany.
    I was never made aware that I couldn’t leave unless my salary dropped below the threshold.
    I’m now paying nearly 1100 Euro per month.
    In the 10 years I’ve lived here, I have only had 6 doctors appointments, all for minor ailments.

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For members

READER QUESTIONS

What tourists visiting Germany need to know about the €9 ticket

Public transport in Germany is about to get a lot cheaper with the introduction of the €9 ticket this summer. We looked at whether you have to be a resident in Germany to get it.

What tourists visiting Germany need to know about the €9 ticket

What’s all this about cheaper transport?

You may have read on The Local (yes, we’ve been writing about it a lot!), that Germany is bringing in a reduced price travel ticket. For the months of June, July and August, people will be able to purchase a €9 monthly ticket which they can use on public transport all over the country. 

The ticket is valid on buses, trains, U-Bahn services, trams and regional trains. People will be able to use it in all local networks – whether it’s Hamburg, Bavaria, Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia or anywhere else.

It’s not valid on long-distance transport – that includes ICE and IC trains, as well as Flixbus and Flixtrain services. So you need a separate ticket for these services. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

Is it available to tourists?

Definitely. Anyone in Germany can buy it. That includes tourists or anyone else visiting the country, as well as residents who live in Germany. 

How can I get it?

It’s not available quite yet, but you should be able to get your hands on it in the second half of May. All going well, it is set to be approved by the German parliament and states on May 19th and 20th (although they are bickering about the funding of it right now). 

Local transport providers are already updating their ticket machines. 

How does it work?

The ticket is being implemented by local transport organisations across the country so there are slight differences depending on where you get it. But the general idea is that people will be able to buy it at ticket machines, customer service centres and even via the transport provider’s app. 

The ticket will cost €9 per calendar month, or €27 in total if you buy three separate tickets. It will always be valid from the 1st of the month. So even if you buy the ticket on June 14th it will still cost €9 and it will only last until the end of that month (not into the next month). 

You can’t buy a three month version of the ticket – you’ll have to buy a separate ticket each month. 

The ticket will have your first and last name on it, so you can’t give the ticket to someone else. 

Two women take a photo in central Frankfurt. Tourists and residents can use the €9 travel ticket this summer. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Can I bring children with me?

Usually, local transport providers allow children under the age of six to travel for free with an adult who has a ticket. But check the terms and conditions of the area you are in. 

Can I bring a bike with me?

No. You’ll need to buy a special ticket to bring your bike on board. You can bring luggage on board without an extra ticket. 

Is it worth tourists buying the €9 ticket?

If you plan to take public transport in Germany, it’s definitely worth getting it. A single day ticket in Munich for example costs €8.20 normally (and even more depending on the zone). In Berlin, a single day ticket costs €8.80. 

Are there any downsides?

Expect services to be busy during these three months as more people turn to local transport. Rail operators have also urged people to watch out for building work on the lines. Since most people normally travel in summer, the warmer months are used to upgrade service and lines. 

READ ALSO: What is Sylt and why is it terrified of the €9 holidaymakers?

Why is the ticket being brought in?

It’s part of the German government’s energy relief measures, which include a €300 payout to German taxpayers and a fuel tax cut. The aim of the transport ticket is also to encourage people to leave their cars at home which protects the climate. If successful, it may lead to price reductions of local transport in future. 

Are there still Covid measures in Germany?

Yes – on public and long-distance transport, people in Germany still have to wear a face mask. You also have to isolate for at least five days (or a maximum of 10 days) if you get a positive Covid test, and there are still restrictions on entering the country

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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