The health insurance (Krankenversicherung) system in Germany is universal, meaning that by law everyone has to take out cover. There are two types of health insurance in Germany: statutory health insurance and private health insurance. The kind you have depends on your employment and how much you earn.
Does my foreign health insurance cover me in Germany?
If you are an EU citizen, you are covered by your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for temporary stays. Once you register in Germany, you will need to take out health insurance.
If you are coming to Germany from outside the EU, having German health insurance is usually a pre-requisite for obtaining a residence permit. You will therefore need to take out German health insurance once you have arrived. Some exceptions to these rules apply to students (see below).
Statutory health insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung)
Statutory health insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung - GKV) covers most of the German population. If you are working in Germany and earn less than 59.4000 euros per year, you will automatically be enrolled in this scheme. Your monthly contributions cover visits to your doctor, hospital stays, basic dental care, and prescriptions and medicines.
If you pay into the German statutory insurance scheme, you are also covered by statutory accident insurance and long-term care insurance. You are also entitled to receive sickness benefit and maternity benefit.
Private health insurance
Freelancers, business-owners and other self-employed workers, as well as high-wage earners (those with salaries higher than 59.400 euros per year or 4.950 per month in 2019) can choose to opt out of statutory health insurance in favour of private health insurance (Private Krankenversicherung - PKV). Around 10% of the population is covered by private health insurance.
PKV generally offers more comprehensive cover, including alternative treatments and private hospitals. On the other hand, contributions to private insurers are usually risk-related, meaning that they generally go up over time. Once you have opted out of statutory health insurance, it is quite difficult to go back, unless your personal circumstances significantly change.
Student health insurance
Depending on your country of origin, you may be covered by your foreign health insurance policy. Germany has agreements with some countries to recognise their health insurance plans as valid in Germany. If your foreign health insurance is not recognised, you will need to take out a German health insurance policy. See our student health insurance page for more details.
Penalties for not taking out health insurance
Failing to take out health insurance is illegal. It can also be a costly option: if you are found to be residing without health insurance, you can be charged back payments to cover your entire stay in Germany.