Know this about German healthcare before moving to Germany

22 February 2022

If you’ve been preparing your move to Germany, you probably already have found a job and secured a visa. Whether it was a blue card or a normal work visa, you’ve tackled the first and biggest challenge yet. Congratulations on that.

There are more challenges to come. One of those is figuring out how the German healthcare system works. It can get tricky. This overview is a first step towards understanding your choices.

The German health insurance system is split into 2

It is compulsory for all German residents to have adequate health insurance by law. They have access to 2 types of coverage: private or public. Both offer more or less the same general coverage, but private offers more flexibility & faster access to specialists in some areas.

Public health insurance costs are set by law at around 15% of your income, but it is capped after some level of income. Kids & dependents can be insured with your own policy too. If you earn less than about 62 000€, you have to be in the public system. It is generally admitted this is the best option for most people anyway.

Private health insurance costs are set by your health profile & risk factors attached to it. Kids & dependents will need their own insurance policies too. If you earn more than around 62 000€, you can decide to go with a private provider. This can result in smaller fees in the short term too. Only 10% of German residents have private insurance. It is only recommended for high-earners. Consult with a specialist if you want to switch.

As employees, your employer pays those costs in part.

You can have your visa approved on special travel insurance…

For your residence permit application, you will probably need to prove you already have health insurance in Germany. However, local providers will only take you if you already have registered in Germany.

A stop-gap solution for this situation is to turn to providers who can sign-you up for special incoming insurances or expat insurances. Those policies are designed for first-time visa applications. They can be valid for up to 4 years.

Do make sure that those policies satisfy the requirements of the immigration office. Your application might get rejected otherwise.

..but you need to switch eventually

After you have secured your residence permit, you can keep this temporary policy for a while. However, do not forget that those policies are nothing more than special travel insurances. The level of coverage is average at best & it involves costs, a lot of paperwork if something happens.

It is recommended to switch to a local German health insurance provider, especially if you have kids or if you have chronic diseases or conditions.

If you wish to renew your visa or apply for permanent residency, you will need a local policy anyway. You will need to show you have your German social security number. You can’t use a temporary policy anyway.

How healthcare works in practice

Healthcare is excellent in Germany. It has modern equipment and trained staff. Most regular treatments and checkups are available at no extra costs. There can be long waiting times at hospitals or specialists, especially in bigger cities.

German Dental healthcare is equally good but you might want to sign-up for complementary insurance for that. As a rule, only 60% to 70% of costs for heavier treatments are covered.

German Mental health care is also covered by both the public and the private system. However, privacy insurance companies will cover a wider array of specialities and techniques, which give access to more professionals, reducing waiting time in turn.

Whenever you need access to a specialist, you first need to go through your GP who will give you a prescription. If you need medication, you will also get a prescription which will let you receive those at no extra cost (or only a few euros) at the pharmacy.

Consultation costs with doctors & hospitals are handled directly between them and your insurance company if you are with a public provider. It might require some more paperwork if you are with a private provider.

I hope this overview of the German healthcare system was useful to you.