Health Insurance

Compulsory coverage for your stay in Germany

Understanding German Health Insurance

Purchasing health insurance is one of the key requirements for students who are applying for a German visa. In fact, it’s a central part of German life in general – ensuring that all citizens and residents from overseas can access medical care when needed, and remain healthy and productive.

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, health insurance involves making regular payments to organizations that then connect policyholders with doctors, hospitals, or other health professionals. These organizations will cover the cost of some of the assistance required by customers. Generally speaking, the most basic health needs will be covered, although supplementary fees can apply for other services.


Getting to Know the German Healthcare System

In Germany, the system is divided into two main sectors – public and private. As a student, it’s likely that you’ll be dealing with public insurers, which are relied upon by 88% of German citizens. So you won’t be alone or depending on an inferior provider. There’s also no way to avoid being enrolled in some form of health insurance. Following a 2007 law, everyone who is a permanent or semi-permanent resident in Germany must ensure that they possess a health insurance policy.

This system isn’t cheap to run, but it is efficient and caters to individual requirements very well. Every year, the German state spends approximately €4,500 per person on health provision. And the amount spent has been rising in recent times, owing to the demands of an aging population.

 Some of the largest public health insurance providers include TK, BARMER, AOK, and DAK, all of which cater for students from other countries. And these are seriously large institutions. For instance, TK as the largest German health insurance fund serves over 10 million people – as much as the health services in many smaller countries. TK has also been rated “Germany’s best Health Insurance Fund” and “Best Health Insurance for Students” by renowned Focus Money.

The scale of the large health insurance funds allows the insurers to build strong links to hospitals, gyms, holistic healthcare companies, drug manufacturers, and doctors. But they also manage to offer a wide range of packages to suit the diverse requirements of modern customers. Let’s look in a little more detail about the kinds of packages students will encounter, how to take out a health insurance policy, and how this fits into the wider student experience.

The Health Insurance System in Germany

As we noted earlier, there are two broad types of health insurance in Germany: public and private. In this article, we’ll assume that readers aren’t going to opt for private policies, which are usually pitched at higher income individuals or those with very specific needs. Public options should be fine for most students’ needs.

Germans who earn under 62,000 per year have to pay 14.6% of their income to fund their health insurance, up to a maximum of €736 per month. However, this doesn’t apply for students, who can purchase lower-cost policies for just around 100 from such providers as TK, BARMER, AOK, and DAK.


Which Type of Insurance Should I Choose?

Most Bachelor’s and Master’s students are advised to enroll in a public insurance scheme, also known as a “GKV”. These schemes are run by bodies called “Krankenkassen” and there are 108 of these bodies across Germany. However, only a few of these organizations can be advised for students.

On the other hand, PhD students, Post-Docs or guest scientists may need to investigate private alternatives. That’s because German law prohibits foreign students over the age of 30 from purchasing public health insurance or allows them but at a high price. This can make policies more expensive than those for Bachelor and Master level students. But the good news is that premiums tend to be low, as insurers factor in the young age and health of PhD candidates.

The same applies to preparatory course students at the Studienkolleg stage. Before starting a degree, students cannot take out public health insurance, but they still need insurance to complete preparatory studies. In this situation, private insurers are the only option. The best providers specialize in catering to foreign students before they start their degrees, and these are the insurers to look for: DR-WALTER, Care Concept, and Mawista.

Even exchange students who are visiting Germany for a semester or two will need to take out health insurance before they can obtain their visas. In this case, students may be able to rely on existing health insurance in their home country, but not all insurance policies can be transported across borders. So it’s important to check with your host institution to ensure that everything is sorted out before you arrive.


Where Does Health Insurance Fit into the Application Process?

If students are applying to start a Bachelor, Master, PhD, or preparatory course, obtaining health insurance is a key aspect of their application. The same goes for guest academics or exchange students. Everyone needs to be covered.

Health insurance needs to be arranged before a visa is granted, meaning that most applicants do so online. Many modern providers such as TK offer seamless online portals to obtain low-cost insurance, while assistance companies like Expatrio, Fintiba, and Coracle also help to make sure that applicants secure the right insurance, at the lowest price.

Before doing anything, applicants should contact their host institution to double-check which form of insurance is required. There’s no sense in taking out private insurance at extra cost if cheaper public options are available. 

Don’t forget to utilize online communities that can give friendly advice and support for those wishing to study abroad. Applying for health insurance isn’t complex, but it is usually essential. So take care, and find a policy that matches your needs.