Health insurance is one of the most important things you need to have when you live in Germany. It is mandatory by law since 2007, and it covers the costs of medical treatments, medications, and hospitalizations. However, choosing the right health insurance can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if you are new to the country. There are many options available, and each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we will explain how the German health insurance system works, and how to find the best health insurance for your needs.
How the German Health Insurance System Works
There are two main types of health insurance in Germany: public and private. Public health insurance is managed by non-profit health insurance funds, and it is based on a percentage of your income. Private health insurance is managed by private insurance companies, and it is based on your age, health condition, and the level of coverage you want. Both types of health insurance have their pros and cons, and the best option depends on your situation.
Public Health Insurance
Public health insurance is the most common and popular option in Germany. About 90% of the population is covered by public health insurance. It is also known as statutory health insurance or gesetzliche Krankenversicherung (GKV). Public health insurance offers a standard and comprehensive coverage for all necessary health care services, such as doctor visits, hospital stays, dental care, prescriptions, preventive care, and more. It also covers your dependents, such as your spouse and children, without any extra cost.
The main advantages of public health insurance are:
- It is affordable and transparent. The cost of public health insurance is a fixed percentage of your gross income, which is currently 14.6%. However, you only pay half of it, and your employer pays the other half. This means that you pay 7.3% of your income for health insurance, plus a small additional contribution that varies depending on the health insurance fund you choose. The average additional contribution is 1.3%, so the total cost is around 8.6% of your income. This amount is automatically deducted from your salary every month, and you do not have to worry about any hidden fees or unexpected bills.
- It is flexible and accessible. You can choose any doctor or hospital that accepts public health insurance, and you do not need any referrals or prior approvals. You can also switch to a different health insurance fund every year, if you are not satisfied with your current one. There are over 100 health insurance funds to choose from, and they all offer the same basic coverage, but they may differ in terms of customer service, additional benefits, and extra fees. You can compare and choose the best health insurance fund for you using online platforms such as Check24 or [Krankenkassen.de].
- It is reliable and secure. Public health insurance is regulated by the government, and it is based on the principle of solidarity. This means that everyone pays according to their income, and everyone receives the same quality of care, regardless of their age, health condition, or pre-existing illnesses. You also do not have to worry about losing your health insurance if you lose your job, change your career, or retire. You can always stay on public health insurance, as long as you pay your contributions.
The main disadvantages of public health insurance are:
- It is limited and restrictive. Public health insurance does not cover everything, and you may have to pay extra for some services, such as alternative medicine, private rooms in hospitals, or certain dental treatments. You may also have to wait longer for appointments, especially with specialists, and you may not have much choice in terms of doctors or hospitals. Some doctors or hospitals may prefer private patients, because they can charge higher fees than public health insurance. You may also have to deal with more bureaucracy and paperwork, and you may not get the best customer service from your health insurance fund.
- It is expensive and inflexible. If you have a high income, public health insurance can be more expensive than private health insurance, because the cost is based on a percentage of your income, not on your risk profile. This means that you pay more, but you do not get more benefits or better coverage. You also cannot customize your coverage, or reduce your contributions, according to your needs and preferences. You have to accept the standard package that public health insurance offers, and you cannot opt out of it, unless you meet certain criteria.
Private Health Insurance
Private health insurance is the alternative option to public health insurance in Germany. About 10% of the population is covered by private health insurance. It is also known as private medical insurance or private Krankenversicherung (PKV). Private health insurance offers a more flexible and personalized coverage for health care services, and it allows you to choose the level of coverage, the deductible, and the benefits that suit you best. You can also choose any doctor or hospital you want, and you may get faster and better treatment.
The main advantages of private health insurance are:
- It is cheaper and more efficient. If you are young, healthy, and have a high income, private health insurance can be cheaper than public health insurance, because the cost is based on your risk profile, not on your income. You can also save money by choosing a higher deductible, or by excluding some services that you do not need. You also pay less tax, because private health insurance contributions are tax-deductible, unlike public health insurance contributions. You also get more value for your money, because you get better coverage, faster appointments, and higher quality of care.
- It is customizable and adaptable. You can choose the private health insurance plan that fits your needs and preferences, and you can change it anytime, if your situation changes. You can choose from a wide range of options, such as single or double rooms in hospitals, head or assistant physicians, dental implants or braces, alternative or conventional medicine, and more. You can also add extra benefits, such as travel insurance, disability insurance, or long-term care insurance, to your private health insurance plan.
The main disadvantages of private health insurance are:
- It is risky and uncertain. Private health insurance is not regulated by the government, and it is based on the principle of individuality. This means that you pay according to your risk profile, and you receive the coverage that you agreed to, regardless of your income, health condition, or pre-existing illnesses. You also have to worry about losing your health insurance if you lose your job, change your career, or retire. You may not be able to afford your private health insurance contributions, or you may not be able to switch to public health insurance, if you do not meet the criteria.
- It is complicated and difficult. Private health insurance is not easy to understand, and it is not easy to find the best private health insurance plan for you. There are many private health insurance companies, and they all offer different plans, with different prices, benefits, and conditions. You have to compare and negotiate with them, and you have to read the fine print carefully, to avoid any surprises or disappointments. You also have to pay for your health care services upfront, and then claim them back from your private health insurance company. This can be time-consuming and stressful, and you may not get reimbursed for everything.
How to Find the Best Health Insurance for Your Needs
As you can see, there is no clear answer to the question of which health insurance is the best in Germany. It depends on your personal situation, your income, your health condition, your preferences, and your eligibility. However, here are some general guidelines to help you make the best decision for yourself:
- If you are an employee, and you earn less than 69,300€ per year, you have to choose public health insurance. You cannot choose private health insurance, unless you are a civil servant, a doctor, or a freelancer.
- If you are an employee, and you earn more than 69,300€ per year, you can choose between public and private health insurance. You should compare the costs and benefits of both options, and consider your future plans and goals. If you want to save money, have more flexibility, and get better coverage, you may prefer private health insurance. If you want to have more security, more accessibility, and more solidarity, you may prefer public health insurance.
- If you are a student, a freelancer, a self-employed person, or a job seeker, you can choose between public and private health insurance. However, you should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of both options, and the criteria and conditions for switching between them. You should also consider your income, your health condition, and your future plans and goals. If you have a low income, a chronic illness, or a family, you may prefer public health insurance. If you have a high income, a good health, or no dependents, you may prefer private health insurance.
- If you are over 30 years old, and you just moved to Germany, you may be forced to choose private health insurance, because public health insurance may not accept you. However, you should try to find a way to get public health insurance, if you prefer it, or if you think it is better for you in the long term. You can do this by enrolling in a university, finding a job, or joining a voluntary organization.
To find the best health insurance for your needs, you should do your research, compare your options, and seek professional advice. You can use online platforms, such as Check24 or [Krankenkassen.de].