Health Insurance

peculiarities of the German health insurance system

German health insurance is mandatory by law meaning that every resident must be medically insured. No visa will be issued for internationals without sufficient health insurance coverage.

German Health Insurance System

The German healthcare system is one of the best healthcare systems in Europe. Since 2009 every person that has a permanent residence in Germany is obliged to have some form of health insurance, whether statutory (governmental) or private. This measure was undertaken by the government after the medical reform in 2007 in order to support the health insurance companies who were failing to cover the costs of their clients. This law also helps to prevent situations when one has to privately cover the costs of medical care or medications in case of illness or an accident. Around 87% of the German population have sufficient health insurance. 

Whereas the governmental health insurance is accessible for everyone, certain conditions apply for the private health insurance depending on such factors as the purpose of stay, country of origin an etc. However, in most of the cases it is up to you to decide whether you want to go for a governmental or private health insurance.





Public vs. Private

Medical Coverage

The statutory health insurance covers general medical needs, including a basic dental care. More specific medical treatments are covered only be private insurance provider.


Public health insurance is much more affordable than the private one since its premium rate is regulated by state. Private health insurance premiums are different for each individual policy holder and depend on state of health, age and scope of benefits.

Coverage of dependents

Whereas the public health insurance may also cover your spouse/wife or children, the private health insurance normally only covers the applicant.

Travel Coverage

Private health insurance normally has wider geographical coverage and provides extensive medical assistance during your travels.





The solidarity principle

Statutory health insurance fees depend on the income of the applicant and account for 14.6% of the gross salary as of 2018. This contribution fee is equally shared in between the insured party and the employer. However, there is normally an additional fee that health insurance providers charge exclusively from the applicant which is on average around 1% of the salary. Once a certain level of income is reached (€ 4.425 per month in 2018), further salary increase plays no role in calculations of the contribution. 

It is also important to know that statutory health insurance covers children and spouses free of additional charge according to the family insurance policy.

Who is eligible for the private health insurance?

There are certain groups of people who are normally always privately insured:

  • Employees with a gross salary higher than € 4.950 per month (2018)
  • Public servants
  • Self-employed persons and freelancers
  • Students older than 30 years old or have finished their 14th semester

There are also ways to apply for exemption from compulsory insurance for other groups of German residents. For international guests in Germany, the private health insurance companies often offer special rates which are adapted to the needs and length of the stay.

Insurance members in Germany by type (in m.)

  • Publically Insured
  • Privately Insured

International Students

According to German law § 5 paragraph 1 Nr. 9 Sentence 1 SGB V, every student in Germany is required to be insured with a statutory health insurance company. People who do not fulfill this requirement can not be enrolled at a German university. An incoming/travel insurance cannot be accepted.

In general, the governmental health insurance contribution is based on the income of the policy holder. However, for (international) students, all statutory health insurance providers in Germany must offer an affordable tariff for students up to 30 years of age or until the end of their 14th semester of studies.

For those who are older than 30 years old or have already completed the 14thsubject-related-semester, it would be better to go for a private insurance since the normal tariff of governmental health insurance providers is significantly higher than the student one.

Please note that if you apply for a private health insurance you will need an exemption from the obligatory statutory health insurance to enrol at a university. After exemption you will not be able to switch back to a statutory health insurance.

Language/Preparatory Course Students or Job-Seekers

Students who are planning to attend a language course or, for example, a “Studienkolleg” also need a German health insurance. Since in their case, they are not yet enrolled in university and therefore are not eligible for the statutory health insurance, a private health insurance needs to be taken out for the duration of the studies.  

In contrast to the governmental health insurance, the contributions are not calculated by the income but depend on state of health, age and scope of benefits. Therefore, you will have to give detailed information on your state of health so that the company can individually adapt the insurance coverage and the tariff. 

Good to know

  • You can always choose the statutory health insurance provider yourself. However, if you would like to change it at later stages, you would have to wait until your membership is over. Normally, the duration of each accounts for 18 months.

  • If you would like to change your insurance scheme from public to private, it is required to notify the insurance provider 2 months in advance.

  • Foreign students under 30 years old have an opportunity to be privately insured as well. However, they first need to request a certificate of exemption from the statutory health insurance for enrolment. Please note that afterwards it is impossible to return to the statutory insurance plan.

  • When privately insured, all treatment costs must be paid in advance by the policy holder. Afterwards, the insurance company will reimburse the costs upon submission of an invoice (cost reimbursement principle).

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Useful information for internationals

Emergency numbers

Please use the following emergency contacts in situations when you urgently need medical treatment. You can make those calls anytime and free of charge.

  • 112 – Ambulance and/or fire brigade (in the whole Europe)
  • 110 – Police

Medical on-call service

Once you need to get urgent medical assistance outside of regular working hours, you can:

  • 116117 – Use on-call medical service provided by the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians
  • Contact emergency department of the municipal hospital or the local university hospital