How to Get Free Health Insurance in Germany

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Germany is known for its excellent healthcare system, which offers comprehensive and affordable medical services to its residents. However, did you know that you can also get free health insurance in Germany under certain conditions? In this article, we will explain how the German healthcare system works, who is eligible for free health insurance, and how to apply for it.

How the German Healthcare System Works

The German healthcare system is based on the principle of solidarity, meaning that everyone contributes to the system according to their income and health status, and everyone has equal access to medical services. The system consists of two main types of health insurance: public and private.

Public Health Insurance

Public health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung or GKV) covers around 90% of the population in Germany. It is mandatory for anyone who lives and works in Germany, unless they meet the requirements for private health insurance. Public health insurance is funded by contributions from insured individuals, employers, and the government. The contribution rate is currently 14.6% of the gross income, which is split equally between the employee and the employer. Additionally, there is a supplementary rate (Zusatzbeitrag) that varies depending on the health insurer (Krankenkasse) you choose. The average supplementary rate is 1.3% of the gross income, which is paid by the employee only.

Public health insurance covers a wide range of medical services, such as:

  • Doctor visits
  • Hospital stays
  • Dental care
  • Prescription drugs
  • Preventive care
  • Maternity care
  • Rehabilitation
  • Long-term care

However, public health insurance does not cover some services, such as:

  • Alternative medicine
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Glasses and contact lenses
  • Private rooms in hospitals
  • Dental implants and braces

For these services, you may need to pay out-of-pocket or purchase additional private insurance.

Private Health Insurance

Private health insurance (private Krankenversicherung or PKV) covers around 10% of the population in Germany. It is optional for anyone who meets one of the following criteria:

  • They earn more than 64,350 euros per year (in 2021)
  • They are self-employed or freelancers
  • They are civil servants or employees of international organizations
  • They are students who are not eligible for public health insurance

Private health insurance is funded by premiums that are determined by the health insurer based on your age, health status, and chosen benefits. Unlike public health insurance, private health insurance does not depend on your income, and your employer does not contribute to your premiums. However, you may be able to deduct some of your premiums from your taxes.

Private health insurance offers some advantages over public health insurance, such as:

  • More choice of health insurers and benefits
  • Faster access to specialists and appointments
  • Higher reimbursement rates for medical services
  • Better coverage for services not covered by public health insurance

However, private health insurance also has some disadvantages, such as:

  • Higher and increasing premiums as you age or get sick
  • Difficulty switching back to public health insurance or changing health insurers
  • Less protection for dependents and family members
  • Possible gaps in coverage for pre-existing conditions or chronic diseases

Who is Eligible for Free Health Insurance in Germany

While public health insurance is not free for most people, there are some exceptions where you can get free health insurance in Germany. These include:

  • Your dependents, such as your spouse and children, if they have no or low income and are not insured elsewhere. They can be covered by your public health insurance for free, as long as they live in Germany or the EU/EEA/Switzerland.
  • Your parents, if they are over 65 years old, have no or low income, and are not insured elsewhere. They can be covered by your public health insurance for free, as long as they live in Germany or the EU/EEA/Switzerland.
  • You, if you are unemployed and receive unemployment benefits (Arbeitslosengeld I or II) or social assistance (Sozialhilfe or Bürgergeld). The government will pay for your public health insurance contributions, as long as you are registered with the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) or the Job Center (Jobcenter).
  • You, if you are a student under 30 years old and enrolled in a state-recognized university or college in Germany. You can be covered by your parents’ public health insurance for free, as long as you have no or low income and are not insured elsewhere. Alternatively, you can join a public health insurer as a student and pay a reduced contribution rate of around 110 euros per month.
  • You, if you are a EU/EEA/Switzerland citizen and have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). You can use your EHIC or GHIC to access public health services in Germany for free, as long as you are not living or working in Germany permanently. However, your EHIC or GHIC may not cover all the services that public health insurance covers, so you may need to pay some fees or co-payments.
  • You, if you are a UK national and have a valid S1 form issued by the UK. You can use your S1 form to register with a public health insurer in Germany and access public health services for free, as long as you are not working in Germany. You may be eligible for an S1 form if you are a UK pensioner, a UK posted worker, or a UK frontier worker.

How to Apply for Free Health Insurance in Germany

If you are eligible for free health insurance in Germany, you need to apply for it with the relevant authorities or health insurers. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  • If you want to cover your dependents or parents by your public health insurance for free, you need to contact your health insurer and provide proof of their relationship, income, and residency status. You may need to fill out a form and submit copies of their passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, tax returns, etc.
  • If you are unemployed and receive unemployment benefits or social assistance, you need to register with the Federal Employment Agency or the Job Center and provide proof of your income and residency status. They will inform your health insurer and arrange for the payment of your health insurance contributions.
  • If you are a student and want to be covered by your parents’ public health insurance for free, you need to contact your health insurer and provide proof of your enrollment, income, and residency status. You may need to fill out a form and submit copies of your student ID, certificate of enrollment, tax returns, etc.
  • If you are a student and want to join a public health insurer as a student, you need to contact the health insurer of your choice and provide proof of your enrollment, income, and residency status. You may need to fill out a form and submit copies of your student ID, certificate of enrollment, tax returns, etc. You will also need to obtain a confirmation of exemption (Befreiungsbescheinigung) from your university or college, stating that you are not obliged to join their student health insurance scheme.
  • If you are a EU/EEA/Switzerland citizen and have a valid EHIC or GHIC, you need to bring your card with you when you visit a doctor or hospital in Germany. You may also need to show your passport or ID card and fill out a form with your personal and insurance details. You will receive the same treatment as a public health insurance member, but you may have to pay some fees or co-payments for some services.
  • If you are a UK national and have a valid S1 form, you need to register your form with a public health insurer in Germany and obtain a German health insurance card. You may need to fill out a form and submit copies of your passport, S1 form, and residency document. You will receive the same treatment as a public health insurance member, but you may have to pay some fees or co-payments for some services.

Conclusion

Getting free health insurance in Germany is possible, but only for certain groups of people who meet specific criteria. If you are not eligible for free health insurance, you will have to pay for public or private health insurance, depending on your income and status. In any case, having health insurance is mandatory and beneficial for anyone living or working in Germany, as it gives you access to high-quality and affordable medical services.

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