Private health insurance in Germany: 5 common misconceptions debunked

Private health insurance in Germany: 5 common misconceptions debunked

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Choosing the right health insurance option can be a headache for those new to Germany, particularly when it comes to the dilemma of weighing up the benefits of private vs. public health insurance. Mirja Link-Lundehn, principle broker for KLforExpats, explains and debunks five common misconceptions about private health insurance, in the hope of making your decision that bit easier.

There's a lot of confusing and conflicting information out there. Below are five common misconceptions about private health insurance in Germany, which are then debunked to give you the information you need to choose a health insurance plan that's right for you.

1: Private health insurance is better than public health insurance

FALSE. Germany is renowned for having a world-class public health system that provides a high quality of care to its residents. There are many benefits to choosing private health insurance, such as potentially shorter waiting times for appointments.

However, depending on the plan you’ve selected, these types of benefits may be limited. If you’ve chosen a cheap or very basic private health insurance plan, for instance, you may not get the same level of coverage as provided by the public health scheme!


2: It’s difficult to switch to the public scheme once you have private health insurance

FALSE. Whilst it may be difficult to join the public health scheme if you’ve initially opted to be privately insured, it’s not impossible. For example, if you are privately insured but switch from being self-employed to working for a company and you earn less than the compulsory insurance threshold as an employee, it will be mandatory for you to join the public scheme.

Similarly, if you are dismissed or made redundant from your employment and receive unemployment compensation as a result – even if it is only for a few days – this changes your status and you will be enrolled into the public scheme.

3: If you become severely ill or injured, your contributions will increase

FALSE. Your private health insurance contributions are fixed at the time you sign your contract. Your contributions may increase over time but this is largely related to inflation rates, advances in medical technology, innovation and growing life expectancy. It is in no way related to you and your changing individual health requirements.

4: Privately insured individuals pay for appointments and healthcare upfront

FALSE. There is a common belief that those who have public health insurance can just waltz on into a hospital, wave their insurance card and not pay a thing whilst those who have private health insurance have to pay in advance or on the spot. This is not the case.

If you have private health insurance, in most cases you will receive an invoice for your medical bill with 30-day payment terms. Every private health insurance provider also offers a mobile app designed for processing claims, which makes reimbursements easy, quick and painless.

The exception is the purchase of prescription medications, which you are required to pay for at the counter. A different process also applies if you have extensive hospital costs that need to be covered; these are arranged directly through your hospital and your insurance provider.


5: Being privately insured is viewed as disloyal or ‘Un-German’

This is an old-world view that most Germans don’t agree with today. It stems from a belief that those who opt-out of the public health system aren’t loyal to the country and the social security system it offers. However, this notion is very unfair as, without the private health insurance system, the German healthcare system wouldn’t be what it is today.

German healthcare is widely regarded for its quality but the reality is, the private health system heavily subsidises the public system. This is because doctors get paid significantly more for treating privately insured patients, which greatly offsets the financial loss of treating someone who is publicly insured.

The whole ecosystem of healthcare in Germany benefits from those who pump money into the private system. Without it, the public system would likely suffer.

KLforExpats is here for you

So, there you have it! Five common misconceptions about health insurance in Germany debunked. Did any of the above surprise you or make you think twice about your health insurance?

Whatever the case, KLforExpats is an English-speaking, German health insurance brokerage with 25 years of experience. Their brokers specialise in finding the right health insurance provider for you and provide bespoke consultation for your unique situation - completely for free!

Mirja Lundehn


Mirja Lundehn

Mirja Lundehn is the co-founder of KLforExpats, an English-speaking, independent insurance brokerage with 20+ years experience in the industry. KLforExpats provides health insurance advice and support to internationals in Germany...

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June Webb 12:10 | 9 April 2020

I had to pay over 2,000 euro upfront before they would perform an operation on my son in Homburg. I had to show proof of payment. So, I respectfully disagree with this.

Mirja Lundehn 15:26 | 9 April 2020

Hi June! Thank you for your comment and amendment. The situation you describe ist quite unusual and I do not know the details, but well, no rule without exception. My advice in such cases is to obtain a statement of cost coverage from the insurance company prior to the operation so that you do not have to pay upfront.

Awal 14:14 | 17 April 2020

Interesting article, however, I think part of it is misleading. Misconception 2 states "It’s difficult to switch to the public scheme once you have private health insurance" and the answer is FALSE. Yet the first sentence states "Whilst it may be difficult to join the public health scheme if you’ve initially opted to be privately insured, it’s not impossible." So in fact it is true, it is difficult, so it is not false. If you want to make it accurate then the misconception should be "It's impossible to switch to the public scheme once you have private health insurance"