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German health insurance premiums rise significantly: What can you do?

German health insurance premiums rise significantly: What can you do?

German health insurance premiums rise significantly: What can you do?

This year, a number of statutory health insurance companies have significantly increased their additional contribution (Zusatzbeitrag) premiums. But what you might not be aware of is that this gives you a special right to switch to a new insurer - and potentially save quite a bit of money. Here’s how it works.  

German health insurers announce higher contribution rates

Every year at the turn of the year, statutory health insurance companies (Krankenkassen) announce their new additional contribution rates for the year. In 2021, 31 of the 76 largest Krankenkassen are increasing their additional contributions, including two of the biggest names: TK (Techniker Krankenkasse) will demand 0,5 percentage points more from its eight million insured members. Barmer is also demanding an additional 0,4 percentage points.  

Many company health insurance funds (BKKs) and general local health insurance funds (AOKs) have also significantly increased their additional contributions, pointing to extra expenditure on COVID-19 to justify the price hike. The average additional contribution will rise by 0,2 percentage points to 1,3 percent in 2021. 

Even if some providers remain comparatively cheap despite the increase, it’s frustrating to have to reach deeper in one’s pockets. A price increase of 0,5 percentage points means forking out an extra 120 euros per year, assuming a gross monthly salary of 2.000 euros - although if you are a salaried employee, half of this increase will be covered by your employer.

You have a special right of termination

But consumers are not at the mercy of the insurance companies. If your insurer increases their additional contribution rate, you have a special right of termination - regardless of how long you have been a policyholder. The only proviso is that you give notice of your intention to terminate before the end of the month in which the insurance company notified you about the price increase. 

Put simply, that means you have until the end of January to seek out a new insurance company if you are looking to make savings. Despite the special right to termination, the regular notice period of two months still applies. So, if you give notice in January, your cover will pass over to the new insurance company as of April 1. 

Pay attention to what’s included

If you’re thinking of switching to a different health insurance company with a lower additional contribution rate, it’s worth bearing in mind that not all insurers provide the same level of cover. One Krankenkasse might charge a higher additional contribution, but also offer additional healthcare not covered by a cheaper insurer. 

So before you decide to switch, compare the level of cover offered by different health insurance companies - for a slightly higher monthly premium, you might get travel vaccinations, osteopathy, homeopathy, or more advanced dental care thrown in. You can use online comparison tools - or even consult with a health insurance broker - for free. 

Changing health insurance providers made easier in Germany

If you don’t decide to change your health insurance provider before January 31, it’s not your only chance. In principle, anyone insured under the public health insurance system can change insurer, regardless of their age or state of health - even if their additional contribution hasn’t been increased. And since the beginning of 2021, “normal terminations” have been made a lot easier in Germany. 

Up until now, the insured person had to remain with the same insurer for 18 months before they could switch again - unless their additional contribution rate had been increased. As of January 2021, this period has been reduced to 12 months. So, if you have been insured with your Krankenkasse for at least 12 months, you can switch to a new one at any time. 

The switchover itself has also been greatly simplified. Anyone wishing to change now only has to register with a new health insurance company of their choice. The new provider will then take charge of terminating your contract with the old company and will electronically send a new membership certificate to your employer - eliminating a lot of the paperwork! 

Abi

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Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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