German Healthcare: Beginners guide

As an American, I can say this is one aspect to living abroad and in Germany in particular that I am incredibly fond of; healthcare! Having lived previously in a state where the prices were too high for me to afford coverage, I can say it is a relief to have the security of always having insurance.

The German Healthcare System

The German healthcare system operate under a dual private/public system. It is funded by sanctioned contributions that ensure healthcare for everyone ( public) or when applicable you can take out a special private healthcare plan. However, in order to get Private Krankenversicherung you must review some strict conditions.

Public Healthcare

If you are contracted in Germany as an employee to a company and make under 57,000 euro a month you ar required to take the government (public) healthcare, or Gesetzliche Krankenversicherun (GKV). The public healthcare is run by a little over 100 Krankenkassen, these all take a basic rate of 14.6% of your gross monthly salary. Although, if you are an employed worker earning under 850 euros a month then you are exempt from this taxation.

This public insurance covers you for primary care with doctors registered to your plan, both in and out-patient hospital care and even basic dental care. In addition, dependents living at your same address ( and registered) will receive coverage at no additional cost. GKV however will not cover private doctors, private hospital stays nor vision (for adults) or alternative treatments.

In order to register for public health insurance  one must be registered at the local town hall and have received an Sozialversicherungsnummer and have proof of employment you are then entitled to the public healthcare with all the benefits of a national.

In term of registration, most employers will take care of this portion however you can visit and review the different types yourself. Some of the largest (and most commonly taken) providers in Germany are AOK, BEK and DAK.

 

Private Healthcare

In addition to the standard public scheme, you also have the option to take out a Private Krankenversicherung (PKV) match any of the following criteria:

  • an employee earning more than 57,600 euros annually
  • working part-time earning less than 450 euros a month
  • self-employed
  • an artist
  • a freelance professional;
  • a civil servant or certain other public employee.

The private scheme typically offers a wider range of dental and medical treatment options and in some cases is tax-deductible. The levels of coverage and premiums are dependent on individuals as opposed to the public scheme which looks mainly on a per family basis.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the healthcare system

Germany’s dual healthcare system is placed somewhere in between the American Market run system and the British state-run system. With many options to opt in or out of the pros and cons vary depending on your choice of public or private sector coverage, however here are a couple of the most commonly heard praises and complaints;

Pros:

  • Your GP choice is not limited by zip code. You have the free range of doctors and hospitals regardless of location
  • The Private healthcare has a multitude of  different options for providers
  • You do not  need a referral when looking for a specialist, they just need to be covered by your type of insurance.
  • The cost of state insurance is dependent on your taxable income
  • All students receive discounts and special benefits for state insurance

Cons:

  • The higher your taxable income is the higher your contribution to state insurance is
  • Some Private health insurers wont except expats until they have reached a minimum residency term
  • There are concerns that with the public/private system, many doctors will move to the private sector to earn a higher income and in do so leave less skilled doctors in the state care
  • In some circumstances insurance companies do not cover the full cost of a hospital stay. Patients staying overnight in hospital may be charged extra fees ( such as meals)

 

 

Helpful healthcare phrases:

  • Hospital – Krankenhaus
  • Patient – Patient
  • Sick – Krank
  • I am allergic to… – Ich bin alergisch gegen…
  • I need a doctor – Ich brauche einen Arzt.
  • I need an ambulance – Ich brauche einen Krankenwagen
  • I need a hospital – Ich brauche ein Krankenhaus.
  • There’s been an accident – Es gab einen Unfall.

For a list of body parts and other useful terms check out this link

 

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