What you need to know about health insurance as an employee in Germany

What you need to know about health insurance as an employee in Germany

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Relocating to a foreign country can be challenging and sometimes even overwhelming, but one of your top priorities after arriving in Germany should be acquainting yourself with the health insurance system. Mirja Link-Lundehn, principle broker for KLforExpats, takes a look at your responsibilities and the health insurance options open to you as an employed expat in Germany, with a particular focus on the pros and cons of private health insurance.

Unlike in some other countries, in Germany the responsibility for selecting health insurance lies with the employee rather than the employer. This means that, even if you lose your job, you do not lose your health insurance coverage. Typically, however, your income and job status determine your insurance options.

The German healthcare system is a complex one, and might leave you pondering the following:

  • Am I eligible for private health insurance?
  • How do I ensure I receive the best access to doctors and quality hospital care for me and my family?
  • Can the health insurance plan I choose cover pre-existing conditions?
  • Is private or public health care better for me and my situation?

German health insurance made simple

In Germany, it’s compulsory to have some form of health insurance coverage before starting to work. No health insurance means no pay cheque. If you choose to stay in Germany for longer than 90 days, you are required by law to have health insurance coverage. It is illegal not to do so.

Simply put, there are two types of health insurance in Germany:

  • Public
  • Private

Regardless of your employment status, you may choose either the public or private health system, but the type of cover you opt for depends on what you earn: if you are employed by a company, you may only opt for private health insurance if you earn more than the salary threshold of 62.500 euros. If you earn less than this, you are obligated to join the public health scheme. If you are self-employed, you have the choice to join a private health plan regardless of your income.

The pros of private health insurance for expats in Germany

Private health insurance is often the preferred choice for expats in Germany for the following reasons:

  • It allows you to get medical attention faster and with less red tape, compared to the public system.
  • It can also offer extensive coverage and can be tailored to your specific needs – something which can be difficult to obtain within the public system.
  • Many in the private system find the quality of care is superior that the public health system, whilst also allowing greater access to English-speaking healthcare providers.
  • It is the most convenient health coverage for those interested in a shorter stay in Germany.

It is also good to know that, if you have a private health insurance plan from a company that issues a certificate recognised by the German government, you may be eligible for the same employer subsidies as someone with a public health insurance plan. This means your employer will subsidise you with approximately 370 euros per month on your private health insurance policy.

The cons of private health insurance for expats in Germany

Private health insurance also presents some disadvantages, which need to be taken into consideration:

  • Unlike public healthcare plans, German private health insurance does not automatically offer healthcare coverage for children and dependent partners for free.
  • As a result, private health insurance plans can be cheaper if you don’t have kids, but more expensive if you do.
  • If you have pre-existing serious health issues, private insurers have the right to reject your application.
  • Private health insurance plans tend to get more expensive over time – but once you have “opted out” of the public insurance system, it can be difficult to get back in.

Whilst many expats end up selecting the private health system, ultimately what will influence your choice of is your age, salary, occupation, benefits, legal status and dependent family members.

These are all factors which you should carefully consider to derive maximum benefits before selecting the health insurance plan that’s right for you.

With 25 years of experience in the industry, KLforExpats detangle the sometimes complex web of health insurance options available in Germany. Providing a completely free, English-speaking service with a personal touch, KLforExpats should be your first port of call when looking to find the right German health insurance plan for you.

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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