One of the items that should be on your checklist for when you arrive in Germany is making sure that you have health insurance. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, health insurance is compulsory for everyone living in the country. To meet the legal requirements, the policy must cover hospital and outpatient treatments. Certain standard medical examinations and pregnancy coverage must also be included. Secondly, you should treat medical insurance as a necessity, like utilities and food. The German health care system is one of the best in the world. However, medical treatment can be very expensive. Insurance means that you will be able to get the treatment you need without depleting all of your financial resources.
The German insurance system is a fairly complex universal multi-payer system. German policies must include three key benefits; health insurance, long-term care insurance, and accident insurance.
In many cases, EU residents will find that their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will meet the legal requirements for living and working in Germany.
All policies cover in-patient care as a ward patient, outpatient care, and basic dental care. Private doctors, surgeons, private hospital rooms, alternative medical practices, vision care and dental implants are not covered. Insurance companies are prohibited from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and must provide a certain basic coverage and benefits. GKV also covers all of your non-working dependents.
There are two primary types of insurance.
Government Health Insurance System (GKV)
A majority of Germans are part of the GKV government insurance scheme. GKV is a rather complex and unwieldy system that has undergone a number of reforms since it was introduced in 2009. The fund is paid for by a combination of employee and employer contributions.
The annual contribution is 14.6% of the employee’s income, with each party paying half. However, there is a caveat. If the insurance provider’s costs are not covered by these combined payments they can increase their rate. This increase falls completely on the employee as the employer’s contribution is legally capped at 7.3%.
Private Health Insurance (PKV)
In general PKV plans cover a wider range of medical and dental treatments. They also offer other benefits such as the ability to choose your own doctor, requesting a doctor that speaks your native language, and other specialised services. Less than 100 insurance companies offer private insurance in Germany and all offer plans at a cost dependent on the benefits chosen. Individuals making more than €56,000 and those who are self-employed are eligible to sign up for PKV.
Many Germans sign up for both GKV and PKV, using the private insurance as a supplement to the government provided coverage. Since PKV is priced according to the benefits, it is often reasonably priced.