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Student Health Insurance in Germany

In Living Abroad, Studying Abroad by Tom @ Abroad American2 Comments

student health insurance in germany featured image

A rather large “Apotheke” (pharmacy) in Germany. These are allll over the place, and they are the only place you can get any kind of medication. “Herbal remedies” and some cold treatments are available at drug stores (ironically, not drug stores, but you know, like a convenience store), but almost everything with medicine is going to only be available in an Apotheke. Photo Credit: Andreas Praefcke (Own work (own photograph)) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

You know how everyone in the US always talks about “universal healthcare” and “single payer” over in “Europe”? Well, I’m over here in “Europe” – which I’ve put in quotes because there are just as many ways of structuring the healthcare market over here as there are countries. So before we get started on student health insurance in Germany, let’s all take a minute (or seven) to learn about Germany’s health insurance market.

Good, now we’re all a bit more educated on this very, very complicated subject. But that wasn’t why you’re here – you want to know what you need to know as a student moving to Germany.

There is practically no way around not having health insurance in Germany. Actually, having a certificate of health insurance in Germany was a prerequisite to actually registering for my first semester classes. I needed to provide a specific form from my health insurance company to the TUM office to prove it.

Your Options for Student Health Insurance in Germany

The exact requirements and situation you find yourself in when you study in Germany depend on a lot of factors. How old you are, what kind of insurance coverage you have at home, and where you’re studying in Germany all impact what you’ll have to do. I want to simply cover the basics here and provide some links to more reading for those who need it. Generally, there are three ways of fulfilling the health insurance requirement as an international student in Germany.

  1. You have health insurance in your home country that you can keep and will cover you during your stay in Germany.
  2. You go on a “public” statutory German health insurance plan.
  3. For some reason, you decide to buy German private health insurance (or you’re over 30 / beyond 14 semesters of subject-related study).

Option 1 and option 3 both consist of “opting out” of the public health insurance system – once you do this, you usually cannot rejoin it. Remember, your student health insurance in Germany is tied to your situation after graduation if you decide to stay in Germany. This means that if you used private insurance as a student (option 1 OR 3), you will be tied to a private insurer after graduation as well.

Private health insurance plans in Germany, like anywhere else in the world, become considerably more expensive as you get older, married, and/or have children. Something to keep in mind. Being on the public system is not something to just give up without a second thought.

What is “Student Health Insurance” in Germany?

So as we learned in the video – having health insurance coverage in Germany is mandatory.

For American students, that might be a bit of a foreign idea. It was for me, but I understood why such a rule exists. So if you’re a US citizen under the age of 26, option 1 may seem like the best way to fulfill the coverage requirement. However, it may not financially make sense for your family.

The costs of adding a family member to an employer-based health insurance plan vary greatly. If you want to move through with option 1, you need to contact your insurer in the US. They can help you provide the proper documents which a public insurer in Germany needs to certify to prove your coverage is equivalent to what they would offer (or at least sufficient). This is not always so easy.

Using Existing Coverage as Student Health Insurance in Germany

Convincing these public insurers is difficult as they are on the legal hook if your coverage comes into question if you need health care. It varies from insurer to insurer, state to state, and more importantly, it depends on what kind of plan you have back home. Additionally, the conditions of your coverage need to be valid for the entire course of your stay (ie, 2 years for a master’s program).

You should check how much it actually compares to the general student rate. The student health insurance plans in Germany are so affordable and so stable because students have access to special rates through the public statutory (legally mandated) health insurance providers. This is generally what I’m referring to as student health insurance in Germany. It is typically very difficult for international students to get coverage from a private health insurer (option 3).

However, international students over 30 years old or beyond their 14th (“subject-related”) semester of studies have different restrictions. They are exempt from the requirement to use – or provide evidence of coverage to – the statutory public health insurers. They can get insurance through a private health insurance company. Students who fall into this category who have already bought into the public system can keep their coverage, though. It’s not as if they’re forced off.

Public Statutory Health Insurance Providers in Germany

Here’s a list of a few of the big providers of student health insurance in Germany (links to English pages).

How much does student health insurance in Germany cost?

As I mentioned above, health insurance for students in Germany through the public statutory (read: normal) system costs about 80€ a month. It changes from state to state and from insurer to insurer, but the price generally hovers around this point. There will be additional payments for specialized prescriptions and less medically-necessary treatments. These additional payments will be minimal.

EHIC for Student Health Insurance in Germany

80 Euro a month and I get my European Health Insurance Card, EHIC. This is all you need to get the care you need in Germany, and across Europe.

What does it cover?

Essentially everything. All your normal doctors’ visits, and the related prescriptions. Some more specialized prescriptions do have a small 5€, but most typical medications are free of charge. Fortunately for me, my only experience using my health insurance was a simple visit to an (English-speaking) doctor and a quick course of antibiotics. I didn’t pay a dime for this, which I describe in more detail in my post How to Find and Visit the Doctor in Germany. I’ve found a couple of lists online of what exactly statutory health insurance in Germany covers, but this one is the most comprehensive. It’s from a page about health insurance on justlanded.de, which has a ton more helpful info on the topic.

General Coverage with Student Health Insurance in Germany

Note that benefits of statutory health insurance change often. Some of the treatments covered are (as of 2015):

  • Medical and dental treatment, with free choice of doctors and dentists
  • Hospital treatment
  • Drugs, dressings, complementary treatment, and aids such as hearing aids and wheelchairs
  • Sickness benefit (Krankengeld): Normally, your employer will continue to pay your wage or salary for six weeks if you are unable to work. After that your health insurance would pay 70 per cent of your regular wage or salary before deductions for a maximum of 78 weeks
  • Measures for the prevention and early detection of certain diseases
  • Preventive dentistry and in particular individual and group prophylactic measures
  • Preventive inoculations, excluding inoculations for non-work-related foreign travel
  • Orthodontic treatment, normally only up to the age of 18.
  • Medically necessary dentures and crowns.
  • Glasses (in “medically necessary cases” – the majority of people who “need” glasses do not get them covered by their health insurance)
  • Immunizations
  • X-rays

Here are some shots of a pamphlet I got from AOK when I signed up, that describes all the benefits of their student health insurance plans at a glance.

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Notes on Health Insurance Coverage

So, as you can see, essentially all your medical needs will be covered. It’s probably good to note that “dental treatment” is only related to health issues. You’re not going to get a dental cleaning for free. However, my provider, AOK, provides 200€ towards health-related expenses ranging from such dental cleanings to gym memberships. I know other providers offer slightly different advantages and benefits, but the basic coverage is legally mandated. I’m also pretty sure that they do not cover the entire cost of getting a pair of glasses – there is probably some support but it is still fairly expensive.

Pamphlets about Student Health Insurance in Germany

I got a bunch of paperwork, including these pamphlets from AOK when I signed up. Actually, I got a bag of goodies too… including a towel (don’t forget to bring a towel!), a soup ladle, and a pizza cutter. All three of which I still use today :). Kinda strange to get these (and other) items from my health insurer, but hey, I’m not gonna say no to free stuff when I’ve just moved to a new country!

Private Health Insurance

There are cheaper private “basic” versions I’ve seen floating around that cost around 35€ a month for students. MAWISTA is a very common search result on the Google machine. Another private insurer, called UNION, was specifically made for international students by the German student union (a literal union) and a private firm.

It seems these plans are only meant for short-term stays in Germany (up to 12 months). The cost rises to 60€ a month after that. These cheaper private plans only apply to international students who cannot or are not required to take out public insurance for some reason. Also, these cheaper options are cheaper for a reason – they don’t cover as much! Many of the typical issues with insurers in the US also seem to pop up with these cheaper private insurers in Germany. Here’s a great breakdown of private health insurance in Germany from InterNations.

I’d really recommend just going for the normal public student health insurance at around 80€ a month. You don’t want to be paying out the nose for a hospital stay just because you were standing aimlessly and unknowingly in the bike path during your first week in Germany… 🙂

How to get Student Health Insurance in Germany

Apotheken are an important part of Student Health Insurance in Germany

Here’s another good example of a pharmacy in Germany, this one is a bit more typical. A small shop in the city which that big red “A”.

It’s actually a fairly simple process. After I had picked a provider, I found their office in Munich that handles student insurance plans. I went in, an employee greeted me and asked me where I was from and where I was studying. He checked to make sure I had all the documents I needed to sign up, which I did, and we sat down to go through the process together. It all sounds pretty easy, right?

However, getting to that point might not be so straightforward. As I’ve mentioned before, the first weeks of your arrival in Germany can be a bit hectic. If you can open a German bank account from abroad – fantastic. If you can figure out your living situation before you move here, fantastic. Unfortunately, without at least 1 of these 2 things organized before your arrival, you kind find yourself in a bit of a catch-22. In order to get many apartments, you need a bank account to pay the security deposit and first month’s rent. But, in order to have a bank account, you need a mailing address in Germany – to be “registered” with the local government. Apparently, there are ways around this, but I couldn’t figure it out when I moved here.

I got around this by moving into a shared apartment that let me transfer my security deposit and first month’s rent a little later. I was able to register as a resident at the apartment’s address and then set up my bank account using that address. Then finally, I could go to my health insurance company’s office and sign up for my student health insurance.


Ask me anything!

Do you have any more questions about student health insurance in Germany or health insurance here in general? Please shoot me an email from the Contact page or leave a comment below. I know that moving here comes with tons of seemingly endless questions. Like many Americans, I was pretty confused by the foreign health insurance system in Germany when I arrived. I’ve learned a lot since then, so I’m here to help anyone going through the process. Maybe I can answer a few of those questions.

Student Health Insurance in Germany

Comments

  1. Excellent resource! Thanks for all your thoughtful research, Tom. Another hurdle of becoming a student in Germany covered!

    1. Author

      Well, thank you, Tom! 🙂 I was actually just going to message you the link to it since you did specifically ask about it.

      Thanks for the kind words, glad you found it useful! If you have any more questions, just message me.

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