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Health Insurance in Germany: A Guide For International Students and Researchers

Finding suitable health insurance is an important thing to keep in mind if you’re planning to come to Germany soon. The German law requires everyone in Germany to have health insurance, including international students, guest researchers, and visitors. It’s also a requirement during your university application and enrollment process.

In this guide, we’ve covered everything you need to know about getting the right health insurance plan for the nature of your stay and your condition.


Health Insurance in Germany: A Guide For International Students and Researchers

Finding suitable health insurance is an important thing to keep in mind if you’re planning to come to Germany soon. The German law requires everyone in Germany to have health insurance, including international students, guest researchers, and visitors. It’s also a requirement during your university application and enrollment process.

In this guide, we’ve covered everything you need to know about getting the right health insurance plan for the nature of your stay and your condition.


German Healthcare System Overview

The Health Care System in Germany is built upon the principle of solidarity. First, every citizen is charged with the same basic rate premium for his/her health insurance that guarantees that everyone contributes same and consequently gets the equal medical treatment. For example, an employer is obligated to pay his sick employee so the later will be able to pay his/her insurance and everyone involved in the plan benefits.

As a huge and complex entity, the German health insurance system is encircled by a number of actors. The main institution in charge, responsible for offering health care services in Germany is the Federal Ministry of Health.

Under their umbrella are several other self-governing institutions that take care of delivering these sorts of services to the people. This includes health insurance providers, regulatory bodies, patient organizations, etc. Duties of Federal Health Ministry include maintaining the health care policies in Germany and assisting these institutions for carrying on the health care services.

Health insurance in Germany is mandatory by law. This law states that every resident in Germany, international students, must be medically insured regardless of their income.

The introduction of this law was done after a medical reform in 2007. At that time the health insurance companies, namely known as Krankenkassen, were failing to cover all medical costs of their clients due to a shortage of funds. To solve this problem, the German government (Die Bundestag) initiated a medical reform under which everyone would be paying for their insurance. This made the Krankenassens able to cover citizens’ medical needs.

Today, the German health insurance system is one of the most modern in terms of quality, effectivity, organization, and coverage. It is estimated that more than 87% of the population in Germany have their health insurance covered.

Understanding the organization and the way it functions is very important before seeking a health insurance. In order for you to get the best deal, you must make a precise evaluation of each health care package offered to you.

For example, a health insurance provider may charge you with lower premiums, but underway may burden you additional money to cover medical costs and at the end turns to be very expensive. Another cheaper health insurance package may not cover all your medical costs and surely this is not what you prefer. With this being said, you must first understand how the system works and then take into consideration each detail before selecting the type of health insurance package and its provider. In this sense, we’re about to give a clear-cut guideline of the German health care system.

First thing, first. The healthcare insurance services in Germany are carried by insurance providers. They’re regarded as the Krankenkassen the typical name for health insurance provider in the German language. Currently, there are 118 such companies in the country delivering these services. The number of them may change year to year as their own policies of premium may also.

A further indication of the well-structured body, are health insurance options. Aligned with certain conditions people in German can seek one of the following healthcare insurances:

  • Government healthcare insurance (GVK)
  • Private healthcare insurance
  • A combination of two

The German health care system comprises the following health care services:

  • Outpatient care
  • Inpatient care (rehabilitation in a hospital)
  • Rehabilitation facilities

For over 125 years the AOK has guaranteed high quality medical care for its insured members in the event of ill health. Around 24 million people are insured under the regional 11 AOKs – close to a third of the German population. More than 53,000 qualified AOK employees based in over 1,200 offices ensure that members receive all the services they require: quickly, competently and without bureaucracy.


BARMER GEK is one of the largest statutory health insurance providers in Germany. Over 8.6 million policyholders place their trust in us. Approximately 15.000 BARMER GEK staff in 800 branch offices show their commitment every day in their work so that our policyholders receive the best possible service. Preventive health care and the best possible treatments in the event of illness are crucial to the quality of life. Health is precious. This why our main concern is that you stay. well.

Techniker Krankenkasse is a strong nationwide community. It is Germany’s major social health insurance fund with more than 8.8 million insurees. The number of insurees continues to increase since approx. 2,000 people take out insurance with TK each day. We are thus growing more than other health insurance funds.
You can rely on TK – as a modern service provider and with the backing of a big social health insurance fund. What does that mean for you? Great benefits, expert advice and customer service tailored to your needs and interest.


One of the largest statutory health insurance companies in Germany, we give roughly 6.3 million people peace of mind when it comes to their health and cases of illness. You can handle a host of matters simply online at www.dak.de in a special data-protected area. On request, a DAK-Gesundheit advisor can come to you at home – or you can contact us via phone 24 hours a day. This includes both medical consultation and questions centred on DAK-Gesundheit’s offers. This comprehensive service is certified by TÜV (German Technical Inspection Agency) and has already been distinguished with several awards from consumer magazines.

The KKH Kaufmännische Krankenkasse is one of the largest national health insurance companies in Germany and one of the strongest institutions in statutory health insurance. When it comes to health, you are on the safe side with us. Your advantages:

  • You receive comprehensive health services like medicine cost absorption, choice of hospitals and fixed allowances for dental prosthesis as well as exclusive additional services with added financial value.
  • We take care of everything when it comes to your health so that you can focus on your studies.
  • exclusive additional services: With our Plus Young-Tariff, you receive a bonus from us of up to 100 Euro per year.

The Government health care system (GKV) is a statutory health insurance scheme in Germany. Roughly 70 million German residents have their GKV insurance.

Who must be part of GKV?

As mentioned above, this health insurance scheme is statutory, in other words, by law, every citizen in German is obligated to have its GKV insurance. Since stands still if the person seeks a better health insurance scheme by a private provider. This means that every German resident whose earnings lay under a fixed amount of money are part of this insurance plan. The ceiling amount of money set for this scheme change from time to time. In 2018, everyone who earns less than €59,400 per year or €4,950 per month, so to say, is obligated to take its GKV.

How much you pay for your GKV health insurance?

There is a specific amount you must pay for your GKV insurance. The premium required for your GKV insurance in Germany is currently 14.6% of your gross salary. This is paid equally by your employer and by you; 7.3% each of you. This However, the actual 113 Krankenkassen (health insurance providers) carry a supplemental charge to their clients which in average is 1% of your salary. Note that with this monthly premium you cover your non-earnings dependent like your spouse or your children.

Benefits

The intention behind the introduction of the mandatory health insurance in 2007 was that every citizen has the basic medical needs covered by its GKV health insurance. Those who get this insurance benefit

  • Inpatient care
  • Outpatient care by a licensed medical practitioner (Kassenarzte)
  • Basic dental care
  • Regular check-ups

Additionally, the insurance package involves a nursing care known as Pflegepflichtversicherung. Disabled people can seek help from a nurse practitioner to do bathing, feeding and similar daily activities.

Important notes

When getting a GKV health insurance you must read carefully what it covers, because if you go beyond its coverage you’ll have to pay on your own. Your GKV health insurance it doesn’t cover any medical treatment in a private hospital, a private doctor or surgeon, specific dental care.

Note that the German health care system may still apply when you’re abroad. However, it doesn’t cover every single country in Europe. So, when you’re somewhere outside Germany make sure your insurance will protect you.  

While your membership in this insurance plan is mandatory, the choice of the service provider is upon you. Further on you can switch between them easily. Your membership at each of them lasts for 18 months. After the end of this period of time, you’re free to decide if you want to change because of premium policies or other conditions.

Contributions for 2018 are as follows:

Health Insurance Health insurance premium per month
AOK Baden Württemberg 72,82 €
Barmer GEK 73,47 €
DAK – Gesundheit 76,07 €
KKH – Kaufmännische Krankenkasse 74,12 €
TK – Techniker Krankenkasse 72,82 €
plus contributions for the care insurance: 16,55  € per month (or 18,17 € – per month for those aged 23 and above who have no children).

The difference between public health insurance and private health insurance in Germany

First things first. Health insurance is mandatory for every citizen and resident in Germany, regardless of their income. On the other hand, whether you choose public or private health insurance is upon your decision and it depends entirely on your earnings.

Medical care coverage is different for each insurance scheme

The health insurance aims to cover basic medical needs, including a basic dental care and regular checkups. In contrast, the private health insurance can cover more specific medical treatments. Moreover, you can get medical treatment in a private hospital or even ask to have your personal doctor who will be taking care of you whenever you need.

You pay different premiums for public and private health insurance

The premium rate you pay for your public health insurance is not the same as for the private health insurance. For your public health insurance, you pay much lower as for the private health insurance. There’s a nationwide basic premium rate for the public health insurance, which is the same for every citizen no matter his/her income. This amount of money needed to be paid for your public insurance may change. Currently, the basic premium rate the public health insurance charges is 14.6% of your gross income. The private health insurance charges higher premiums which vary according to your earnings and the risks you’re willing to take.

GKV and PKV: Whom it covers?

Your public health insurance in Germany may cover your dependents too, for example, your spouse/wife or your children. A private health insurance, on the other hand, it usually covers only the applicant who has been taking the insurance.

As a GKV insurer, you pay a nominal fee in hospital

If you’re holding a public health insurance you will have to pay a nominal amount of money when getting a hospital rehabilitation while for the rest the insurance provider will take care. Whereas, if you’re holding a private health insurance you won’t be paying a single cent. All you need to do is to show your membership chip card and your provider will take care of everything.

The geographical coverage is different

The public health insurance has a limited geographical coverage as opposed to a private health insurance provider which most of the time have a wider coverage. Being insured under the GKV scheme you’d expect to have basic medical assistance if you’re caught by surprise by an illness in some particular countries, but that’s all. If you’re privately insured your medical care will normally include more health coverage.

You or insurance providers: who pays for remedies?

If you’re insured with a public health insurance provider then 10% must be paid with a maximum of 10 euros and a minimum of 5 euros per prescription. Non-prescription medicines must be paid in full. Furthermore, the pharmacy is obligated to find the cheapest remedies required by you. On the other hand, if you’re privately insured then you will take top-brand remedies. At the moment when you’ll get the medicines, you’ll have to pay and then send the receipts to your health insurance company which is supposed to take care of reimbursement.

Health Insurance For Foreign Students In Germany

All international students in Germany are required to have health insurance during their stay. In fact, you can’t enroll in university if you don’t have health insurance coverage.

The good thing about being fully insured is the peace of mind knowing that if you happen to have health problems, you can go visit the doctor and get hospital services knowing that you won’t have to pay the large medical bills out of your pocket.

There are two types of health insurance in Germany:

  1. The compulsory health insurance (public health insurance)
  2. Private health insurance.

All students are required to have health insurance in Germany, but depending on where you come from, you might be eligible to use the health insurance you already have in your home country. You should consult your university’s international office for more details.

Even if you have basic coverage, many students also get additional health insurance plans that cover specific conditions and are customized for them. There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to health-related issues.

You don’t have to get stressed and worry too much in general whether you should choose public or private insurance or which private company you should move forward with.

These days you can compare insurance plans and buy your own insurance online before you arrive in Germany. For international students in Germany, we recommend you get the MAWISTA Student health insurance plan.

Health insurance for language course students in Germany

Are you planning to learn the German language in Germany? The German law requires you to have health insurance.

Many students choose Germany as the country to learn the German language because it’s the language’s origin country, you get to have conversations with native German speakers, enjoy the culture and more.

Some of most reputable language schools offer language learning courses and programs that require you to stay for a few weeks or months in Germany, and because you’re essentially going to live there, the German law requires you to have health insurance.

Depending on your health conditions, you may choose a health insurance plan that is tailored to you. These days you can compare private insurance plans and get health insurance customized for you online. Keep in mind that as a language student in Germany you won’t be able to get the public health insurance plan.

There are plans available for foreign students who are staying in Germany to learn the language or study at university. One company that has affordable insurance plans for language students that you can easily and quickly buy online is MAWISTA student.

Health insurance for preparatory course students

Do you need to take a preparatory course before you start university in Germany? You must have health insurance.

Many German universities require you to enroll in a preparatory course and pass the final test before you can begin studying and attending lectures in the normal university program. This depends on your education and in some cases, preparatory courses are not required.

If the international office of the university you’re planning to study in has instructed you to come to Germany to first take a prep course, they surely mentioned you need to have health insurance in addition to the rest of the required application documents.

The German law requires you to have health insurance, and you can pick a private plan depending on your needs. You can’t get insured under the public health insurance plan as a preparatory course student.

Some companies have custom-tailored health insurance plans for foreign students and can have you covered for the full duration of your preparatory course, with the option of extending your insurance in case you stay in Germany to continue your studies.

What’s more important is that you can compare plans and get your health insurance online before you even set foot in Germany, companies such as Mawista have an online application process that takes very little time to complete and get your health insurance confirmation. Learn more about MAWISTA Student here.

Health insurance for exchange students

You must have health insurance to stay in Germany as an exchange student.

If you’re going to study in Germany for a semester or a year, as an exchange student or with programs such as Erasmus, you’re going to need health insurance.

Because, the law requires everyone in Germany to have health insurance you’re going to need to get a plan that complies with this law. If you’re from a EU country, chances are your current plan is sufficient, but it’s best if you consult with the international office of your university.

In Germany, you have two options when it comes to health insurance, one is the public insurance that everyone gets but only covers the basic health-related problems, and the second option is private insurance that can be customized depending on your needs.

The majority of exchange students in Germany choose a private insurance plan customized for them because they are more comprehensive in terms of coverage.

If you want to have peace of mind and know that you’re not going to pay large medical bills when you get sick in Germany, it’s recommended that you get yourself a plan customized for international students. One plan that is ideal for students is MAWISTA Student.

Health insurance for guest workers and guest scientists

Are you going to stay in Germany and as a guest researcher or scientist? You are required to have health insurance when you come to Germany.

Germany is one of the countries that welcome thousands of guest workers, researchers, and scientists. The duration of your stay, of course, depends on the work you will be doing, but also the period of time your visa has been granted.

One thing you are required to have if you’re coming to Germany to work as a researcher or guest scientist is health insurance.

The regulations in Germany require everyone to have health insurance. If you come from an EEA country or a country that has a social security agreement with Germany, you might be eligible to use your health insurance you already have in your home country.

If you are from a non-EU country and you’re planning to stay in Germany for a longer period of time, you will need to get the compulsory health insurance from licensed insurance companies in Germany.

We recommend you get yourself a plan tailored for guest scientists and researchers such as MAWISTA Science.

Health insurance for International Ph.D. Students/Candidates in Germany

Most Ph.D. students should take out private health insurance plans. As a foreigner, you cannot take out statutory health insurance if you have reached the age of 30 or have started the 14th semester of studies in Germany.

Only a few of doctoral students are allowed to continue with more reasonable health insurance rates, as a gesture of goodwill, depending on whether they have reached their 30th birthday yet or their 14th semester (you should count from the first semester of studies).

Private health insurance providers offer a variety of services that are not covered by statutory health insurance providers. They can also offer coverage or reimbursements for private rooms, surgeons, dental implants, private doctors, and other medical possibilities.

The good thing about Ph.D. students is that their risk is not highly calculated as they are still young and in good health, therefore pay less for getting into private health insurance schemes. Otherwise, the monthly rate would have been automatically higher; as older persons are considered more risk-prone and possible to become chronically ill.

To enroll at a German university, you must first present the proof of current health insurance in Germany or an international health insurance scheme that is also accepted in Germany. Otherwise, enrollment is impossible!

For international PhD students in Germany, we recommend you choose the MAWISTA Student plan, which you can easily apply for online.

International Doctoral Candidates Receiving Scholarships

Nowadays, scholarships are considered tax-free allowances or student salaries/earnings.  Therefore, Ph.D. students must all be health insured in Germany, and whether they get statutory or private health insurance also depends on the amount of money they earn annually or of their scholarship.

Ph.D. Candidates that receive scholarships or who are based in Germany to write their dissertation independently are not subject to compulsory insurance. These students are eligible either to become voluntary members of a public health insurance scheme or to take out any private health insurance.

Unemployed Ph.D. students that have prolonged their studies can take out private health insurance for the duration of their doctoral studies.

Doctoral Students as University Staff Members

Doctoral students, that are also University staff members, are insured as employees in the statutory health insurance schemes due to their annual payrolls being below the threshold that could have enabled private health insurance options.

The annual payroll limit changes from year to year and is determined by the ‘Beitragsbemessungsgrenze’. However, in 2015, the threshold was 54,900€.

Ph.D. academic staff working at the university and needing to pay social security fees are automatically covered by the statutory health insurance policies.

Ph.D. students employed as research assistants at a university or other higher education institutions are covered by social security – therefore, statutory health insurance is obligatory.

Frequently Asked Questions About Health Insurance

1. How do I apply for a health insurance?

There are currently 113 official public health insurance companies in Germany, known as Krankenkassen, but the Government doesn’t set the one to choose. Since you have this freedom to choose all it takes to be entitled is to contact the company of your choice and see if their offers suit you. Normally they will guide you through the whole process and paperwork needed.

2. How long can I stay without being insured?

If you’re an international coming to Germany you need to register for the mandatory health insurance scheme within 30 days from the day you register at a residence address. If you’re an employee-to-be in Germany then it is expected that your employer will take care of all the paperwork at least two weeks before you start your job.

3. How do I get a health insurance in Germany?

Health insurance in Germany is mandatory for everyone. There are many health insurance companies known as Krankenkassen you must look for and apply for their insurance packages. Once you find the one it suits you must initiate the process of the health insuring by contacting your chosen provider. They will give the details and the paperwork required for your entitlement to their insurance framework.

4. What if I am an expat and I don’t know German?

There’s no need to worry about this. Most doctors and pharmacists in Germany know English or any other language so communication won’t be any problem and you will address your health concerns easily. Furthermore, if you’re holding a private medical healthcare insurance there will easier than that. Private insurers make adds a significant contribution to the doctors’ supplemental incomes and so they pay greater attention to their privately insured patients. Being so, most of them know at least a foreign language other than the German language.

5. Do I get fined if I don’t have health insurance?

You must have a thing clear from the very beginning, health insurance is mandatory by law in Germany. With this being said, if you don’t have a health insurance, you’re actually breaking the law. And surely breaking the law means you’ll be charged a fine. So, when residing in Germany the first priority of yours will have to be seeking your health insurance otherwise you know the consequences. Although this is to say you need to be insured every moment in Germany, there may be a time-limited tolerance, but very narrow. Any single moment beyond this time limit will lead to a penalty for you.

6. How much does my membership with a Krankenkassen last?

When signing up with a particular Krankenkassen (health insurance provider) you will be a member of their insurance scheme for 18 months. After that, you’re free to decide if you want to continue with them or change to another company whose offer seems more attractive to you. If you’re holding a public health insurance and you want to change your insurance scheme to private insurance, then you can do by sending your provider a notice 2 months ahead.

7. Do I have to pay for my children’s insurance?

It depends on the type of health insurance you’re holding. If you have a GKV then your insurance is supposed to cover all your non-working and non-earning workers, including here close relatives like your spouse/wife or children.

8. What if I suddenly get sick in Germany while in a short visit?

If you’re in a temporary stay in Germany and get suddenly sick your health insurance in your home country covers your medical needs in specific circumstances, otherwise not. If you’re an EU/ EEA and Switzerland citizen and entitled in your country’s public health insurance framework then you can seek health care in Germany if you end up sick. In 2013, EU countries initiated a joint health care system so the citizens of each other could get required medical treatment all covered by their health insurance in their homeland. This normally applies in specific circumstances, for example, in emergency cases, or you need a treatment because you get acute symptoms or you’re an expectant other. When getting to the hospital you have just to show them your European Health insurance Card (EHIC) and they will take care you get the necessary medical care. After returning home, your health insurance provider will reimburse your insurance account.

9. Is health insurance an admission requirement?

In a way, the fact that health insurance in Germany is mandatory by law confounds international students about the time when they must seek health insurance. Many fear that they cannot apply for a university place without being health insured in the first place. False! You’re free to submit a university application without being health insurance ahead of your landing in Germany. Once you get admitted and land in Germany you must seek your health insurance plan.

So, have in mind, that while for the university application, there’s no need to be health-insured, when it comes to being enrolled at the university you need to be insured otherwise the University will turn down your admission.

After you receive the admission letter, the university is supposed to give you the necessary information around relevant issues relating to your staying in Germany as an international student. Also, you’re free to ask their counselling services for still more specific procedures on how to seek health insurance as for the other needs you may have through the way.

10. Can I use my homeland health insurance plan in Germany?

It wholly depends if there’s any agreement between respective states, therefore your country and Germany. Also, note that countries’ health insurance policy, including here Germany, toward a foreign country change depending on the country.

For example, back at home, your health insurance may cover numerous medical needs, but in Germany, there are limited medical services covered by your insurance provider. Furthermore, there are countries with whom Germany may not have a single agreement about this issue and your health insurance won’t cover anything. In this context, you must personally ask your health insurance provider and other relevant national authorities in your home country and they will inform you in details.

11. Does my insurance plan cover me when I’m home on holidays?

Except for particular countries with whom the German state doesn’t have a bilateral agreement, your German health insurance plan is supposed to cover you even when you’re staying home during holidays. However, there may be specific circumstances and specific situations at which your insurance won’t cover you while being out of Germany. If you have this concern you must ask your health insurance provider in Germany and other involved authorities that will tell you if they offer a health insurance plan that perfectly matches your needs.

12. If I graduate before my health insurance membership expires should I still pay for it?

When you get your health insurance plan you basically sign a contract with the Krankenkassen company and as any other contracts, it has its own conditions and terms. Therefore, you need to stay in line with them.

In principle, this contract specifies that your Krankenkassen membership lasts for 18 months. After this period of time, you’re free to choose if you want to continue or resign. However, you can still switch off your membership before this deadline by sending a notice to the health insurance provider you have chosen in Germany. Also, you need to contact a Residence Registration Office and tell them you want to cancel your insurance. They may give you a form to fill so they can remove you from their database. Finally, they set a time limit after which you’re no longer entitled to the health insurance program in Germany. This time limit is usually two weeks or so.

13. Can my health insurance plan cover my relatives?

Lucky for you. One of the extra benefits that the health insurance system in Germany is that your insurance can cover your relatives who at the moment when they need the medical assistance were visiting you. Surely, your insurance will only cover basic needs until your relative can return home for further rehabilitation.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is a membership card which allows European citizens to pursue necessary medical care while being in a foreign country, free of charge or at a reduced cost. The card came as a replacement for the E111 certificate which basically had a similar intention as the EHIC.

Years later, after the E111 was replaced in 2005, the European countries increased their commitment to widening the participation. In 2013, 32 EU countries, including Switzerland agreed on creating a joint European healthcare system. Under this health insurance scheme, every European citizen will get the necessary medical treatment if it’s caught by surprise by an accident or an illness while being abroad. According to the most up-to-date statistics, over 40% of EU population have their EHIC card.

If you’re a European citizen and want to travel in other EU countries you must have your EHIC on your luggage otherwise in case of an emergency your health insurance in your home country won’t cover any of your medical expenses. Also, take care of exactly knowing what your insurance covers abroad if you don’t want to go beyond that and end up paying too much.
The following countries are part of the European Health Insurance agreement, therefore citizens of these countries are allowed to pursue an EHIC:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden Switzerland and United Kingdom.

Besides these countries, there some third countries with which the member states hold similar agreement for the medical protection of citizens of all agreed parties. Clearly, the list above doesn’t include the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican.

How do I apply?

If you’re a citizen of the above-mentioned countries and you hold the public health insurance in your country of residence then you eligible to pursue an EHIC insurance. Also, if you’re a national of a non-EU country and legally residing in an EU country, Liechtein, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland you can pursue your EHIC. Note, however, that Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland don’t accept the non-EU residents EHIC cards.

The application for your EHIC card can be carried online. Each country has an official website for everyone willing to apply for an EHIC card. Always keep in mind that your application for this health insurance charges no fee to you. Unfortunately, there are some scam websites that may pull out you to pay for such application so take care of them.
The best you can do is by contacting in person your public health insurance provider in your home country and they will help you with the application process and in this way you avoid any possible fraud.

What it covers your EHIC?

The biggest and the foremost problem people have when taking their EHIC card is not precisely knowing what it covers. It is important that the EHIC is strictly limited to a number of medical services to the insurer. Furthermore, its coverage may change depending on the country’s national health care system.

At its best, the European Health Care System is designed to cover the insurer’s basic medical needs while being in a foreign country. This includes pre-existing chronic illness like the kidney dialysis, the emergency cases and unexpected accidents. Holding this insurance card doesn’t cover your medical treatment if you travel abroad for the purpose of giving birth in the destination country. As an expectant mother your EHIC will cover only if you give birth to a child even though you were not expected to do during that period.

Below are some important notes everyone holding this health insurance card must be aware of:

Your EHIC card can be pursued in your home country and can be issued by your statutory health insurance provider. The application process as mentioned before can be carried online.

Your EHIC card is not an alternative to your travel insurance. Being so, the EHIC won’t cover any cost that the travel insurance is supposed to cover, for instance, your stolen things, your ticket for flying back home.

Moreover, if you go abroad with a clear purpose of seeking a private healthcare treatment, then your EHIC card won’t cover you anymore. This includes any private treatment you were not able to pursue in your homeland, any advanced dental care and so on.

Your EHIC doesn’t every medical cost, you may have abroad. Furthermore, the limits at which the EHIC coverage extents differ from country to country, depending on each health insurance policy. For example, the statutory health insurance system in a foreign country may charge you with a nominal fee for a medical need that in your home country wouldn’t be paying anything. This is entirely due to different public health insurance scheme between your homeland and the other country. In other words, you’ll be taken care of same as the resident of one country who holds a public health insurance there.

Your EHIC card covers only the health insurance of the person who’s holding it. If you want to cover any member of your family you have to get an EHIC for each of them.

Get to understand the portable documents

When getting insured under the European Health Insurance scheme, you will also receive some other documents in letter form apart from your EHIC card. Under the European health insurance scheme reform, the former E-certificates were replaced by a group of more comprehensive documents, with one of them being the EHIC card. In contrast to other 9 portable documents the EHIC is not in the letter form, but as a card. Basically, a portable document is what makes sure you to be covered in certain circumstances while being abroad. For example, in case of an emergency or an accident abroad, you can seek the required medical treatment with your D1 portable document.

Note that you can still pursue a health insurance in EU countries, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland even though you may have been insured in another country. If you’re abroad with a purpose rather than working, therefore on a short visit, you can still seek your EHIC card. Simply get to your health insurance provider in the country you reside and ask if your EHIC card covers in the country where you’re about to go or seek an S1 form to register for a local health insurance company in the country you’re visiting. The health insurance through S1 is very common for retirees or for family members of a migrant worker. For example, the family members of a migrant working abroad may live in their country of origin but now are also covered under their family member insurance abroad.

Other Types of Insurance in Germany

Germany features a high level of safety awareness; and many consumers want to be well protected against all kinds of eventualities of their everyday life by taking out an insurance policy. On the average, a German citizen pays about 2,400 €/year for six insurance policies; this amount has doubled in the course of the past 20 years. 50% of the insurance contributions are paid for private old-age provisions. The figures are per-capita expenditure, i.e. a three-person family pays 600 €/ month for insurances in the average. In the following we will clarify for which insurances/ provisions the money is spent and which insurance policies are common in Germany.

Which insurances are available in Germany?

In general, insurances can be sub-divided into two large types: the personal insurances on the hand and the property insurances on the other hand. While property insurances offer protection from destruction, damage or loss of the insured objects, personal insurances financially protect the insured person from particular risks of life.

Personal Insurance

All employees subject to social insurance contributions pay into the statutory health insurance and the statutory pension insurance, which rank among the largest personal insurances in Germany. In addition, a lot of further insurance policies can be taken out voluntarily to cover individual risks.

Private Health Insurance (Private Krankenversicherung)

A private health insurance is suitable for those persons who are not subject to statutory compulsory insurance such as e.g. Self-employed persons, freelancers, civil servants, employees with a very high income (income exceeding 57,600 €; data referring to the year 2017) and students. Students can only take out a private health insurance, if they are exempted from the statutory health insurance or if they are at least 30 years old.

Persons subject to the statutory health insurance are also allowed to take out a private health insurance. In this case it is a supplementary insurance, which covers individually selected risks that are not or only partly covered by the statutory health insurance such as the costs for dental prostheses or for alternative medical treatments (homeopathy).

Life Assurance (Lebensversicherung)

A life assurance covers the risks of death or disability; it can also be used as an old-age provision.  Various contract options are offered depending on the insured person’s risk profile.  A fixed insurance sum is stipulated in a security-oriented insurance policy which is paid out either after a specified number of years (in case of survival) or in case of death. Insurance policies covering risks often include equities, which influence the amount to be paid out on the due date.

Occupational Disability Insurance (Berufsunfähigkeitsversicherung)

If occupational disability is determined, the occupational disability insurance pays the stipulated insurance sum, the so-called disability pension. Every month the insured person receives a fixed amount that allows him/her to make a living. Many insurance policies depend on the degree of occupational disability: the higher this degree, the higher the amount paid out to the insured person.

In terms of tariff and insurance provider there are a number of other factors to check. The German Krankenkassen-Zentrale offers a summary of current test results (German language: “Berufsunfähigkeitsversicherung im Test”) about the occupational disability insurance, for instance.

Legal Protection Insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherung)

The private legal protection insurance is applicable in case of legal disputes in the private area, including claims for damages, fine proceedings, criminal matters or social lawsuits. This insurance covers all judicial instances, including the costs of experts, witnesses, surveyors, lawyer and court under the precondition that the legal dispute has a reasonable chance of success. The legal protection insurance covers neither willfully caused lawsuits nor expenses that are too high compared with the envisaged success. Depending on the policy, the legal protection insurance may additionally cover professional lawsuits and travel law disputes. Experts recommend adapting the scope of insurance cover to the individual requirements. 

Travel Health Insurance (Reisekrankenversicherung)

Depending on your destination the usual health insurance may not be applicable during your holiday. Comparing Europe with Germany, the statutory health insurance or private health insurance pays for the illness costs to a similar extent. Even if a medical treatment abroad is more expensive than in Germany, the insurance will bear the costs up to a stipulated maximum amount (fixed allowance). The costs exceeding this maximum amount have to be paid by the patient.

Short-term insurance policies can be taken out for one particular holiday trip, whereas long-term contracts cover all travels during a period of 12 or more months. The travel health insurance does not only pay for the illness costs but additionally bears the costs of the medically required return transport to Germany.

For more information about this kind of insurance, make sure you check out MAWISTA Visum.

Accident Insurance (Unfallversicherung)

The accident insurance is applicable, if the insured person’s health is severely impaired either by permanent disability or a long recovery process as a consequence of an accident. Two different accident insurances are to be distinguished: the statutory accident insurance which covers accidents on the way to work and the private accident insurance which is applicable for accidents in the private area (leisure, sports and household accidents). According to statistics, 70 % of the accidents occur in leisure time. Every person should estimate his/her individual risk to find out whether it is necessary for him/her to take out such an accident insurance.

Travel Cancellation Insurance (Reiserücktrittskostenversicherung)

The travel cancellation insurance covers the risk of having to withdraw from a travel for various reasons, including unexpected professional changes, illness, pregnancy or death of a family member. If these risks are explicitly listed in the insurance policy, they are covered by the insurance. The financial burden arising from the cancelled travel can be reduced by such travel cancellation insurance. The travel agencies often reimburse a part of the already paid travel costs. Except the insured person’s deductible, the travel cancellation insurance covers the remaining travel costs including the cancellation fee.

More information can be found on Reiseruecktrittsversicherung-Tipps (German language)


Property Insurances

Property insurances cover the contractually defined objects, particularly the risk of their loss, damage and destruction. The third-party liability insurance, the insurance on household contents, the fire insurance, the residential building insurance and the automobile liability insurance are the most important property insurances.

Third-Party Liability Insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung)

The private third-party liability insurance covers damages which are due to careless action, thoughtless behavior or missing performance of duties. It is applicable to all damages for which the insured person is liable to pay or for which he/she has to assume financial responsibility. According to the German Civil Code the liability for damages is defined as liability with your total assets. As neither the maximum reimbursement amount nor the duration of payment is limited, the worst case may feature lifelong payments and a life in poverty.

Example: In case of an accident caused by you, the other party involved in the accident is seriously injured and wheelchair-bound from now on. All related costs have to be borne by you, i.e. The person who is responsible for the accident. Over the years, these costs may amount to hundreds of thousands of Euros. In such an event the third-party liability insurance covers these costs.

Attention: It is important to know that only damages caused to third parties (not to your spouse e.g.) are insured. Moreover, the third-party liability includes passive legal protection, i.e. It fends off unjustified claims in a legal dispute and bears the related costs.

Fire Insurance (Feuerversicherung)

A fire breaking out in a building can destroy everything within seconds. Consequently, not only the building itself, including fixed installations, but additionally the household lie in ashes. As the amount of such damages may easily threaten the existence of both homeowners and tenants, they are recommended to protect themselves against the financial burdens which may accrue from a fire. The fire insurance bears all these financial burdens, including the costs for non-residence, the fire service costs or the damages caused by the firefighting water.

Automobile Liability Insurance (Kfz-Versicherung)

Every driver of a motor vehicle is legally bound to take out an automobile liability insurance. This insurance policy covers personal and property damages which arise from an accident caused by the motorist. The amount paid by the automobile liability insurance is stipulated in the policy item “agreed sum insured”.

Residential Building Insurance (Wohngebäudeversicherung)

The residential building insurance is identical with a fire insurance, but additionally covers damages caused by mains water, storm, hail and natural hazards. In other words: it pays all costs arising from the damage including clean-up, the damage at the building or accommodation away from home.

Insurance on Household Contents (Hausratversicherung)

The insurance on household contents protects the belongings from material damages and the related costs. Most objects in a house or flat are insured against numerous causes of damage, including burglary, water damage or destruction. The insurance policy covers not only the stolen objects, but additionally the damages caused by the burglars. Moreover, all damages caused by fire, mains water, storm or hail are reimbursed by the insurance on household contents.

Insurance protection can be arranged individually

In addition to the insurances described above, numerous particular individual insurances are offered in Germany. This wide range of policies which is rather confusing for non-professionals bears the risk of over-insurance. Compiling your insurance portfolio, you should consider very carefully which insurance policies are economically reasonable and affordable for you. The risks of life change with advancing age, e.g. Marriage and children, loss of job, taking up self-employment or the beginning of retirement can entirely change your life situation. A regular insurance check is therefore highly recommendable to ensure your financially and individually suitable insurance protection at all stages of life.