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8 Simple Facts

How to understand German Health Insurance in 8 Minutes

finding a health insurance in Germany

Can every foreigner apply for membership at German public health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung)?

Do I need to have a job to get health insurance in Germany?

Is private health insurance better than public health insurance in Germany?

The German medical insurance system is complex. I think it is complex in almost every country of the world!

Let me help you understand it a little better.

I will explain the most frequently asked questions that newcomers have about getting insured in Germany.

#1 What is the healthcare system in Germany like?

First of all. There is one simple rule you must know about health care in Germany.

Everyone who moves to Germany is required to have health insurance.


Because there is a legal obligation for everyone to have health insurance in Germany.

You must have either public or private health insurance. If you stay in Germany permanently, travel health insurance is not sufficient.

About 85% of Germans are member of a public health insurance provider in Germany. In German you call this Gesetzliche Krankenkenversicherung (GKV).

The other 15% are member of a private health insurance.

Ok. Anything else I need to know?

Yes. You may be pleased to hear the following.

Germany’s healthcare system is one of the best in the world.

Yes, waiting times for public health insurance members may be longer than for privately insured patients.

But the quality of the treatment you get as member of the German public health insurance is extremely good. Much better than in many other countries of the world.

Some people travel to Germany just to get medical treatment. Crazy, he?

#2 How do I see a doctor in Germany? I don’t speak German!

You want to see a doctor in Germany? But you don’t speak German?

In this case, I recommend the following:

Become a member of AOK public health insurance.


The employees speak 17 languages. They have a free service hotline. You can call them with every problem you have. In English!

For example. You can call the service hotline, if you look for an English-speaking doctor.

They will search for an English-speaking doctor in your area. They keep lists with doctors that speak several languages.

They will even make an appointment for you.

So there is no need for your to call up different doctors – which saves you valuable time and the hassle of speaking German on the phone.

You have probably noticed that doctors are usually closed on the weekends.

What if you fall ill on the weekend? And what is the emergency number in Germany? How does it work with seeing a doctor in Germany. Find out in our blog on How to see a Doctor in Germany.

#3 What is ‘Gesetzliche Krankenkasse’?

In total, there are more than 200 healthcare providers for public health insurance.

They are not allowed to charge more than what is set out by the state.

So the services and fees are all roughly the same for all public health insurance providers.

AOK is by far the largest healthcare provider in Germany.

It is also the only one that has specialised in healthcare for foreigners in Germany.

That’s why AOK is the most popular health insurance providers for newcomers in Germany.

#4 Can everybody get public health insurance in Germany?

Not everyone can be a member of public health insurance in Germany.

Who is eligible for public health insurance in Germany:

√ Anyone with an employment contract who earns less than less than about 56,500 Euros per year (if you earn more you can also be member, but it will be very expensive)
√ Students
√ Self-employed with an income
√ if you are registered as unemployed (only if you are from a certain country, see #5)
√ spouses and children of someone who is member of public health insurance in Germany

#5 I’m unemployed. Can I still get public health insurance in Germany?

Citizens of some EU countries may be able to get into the public health insurance system in Germany even when they’re not employed in Germany.

Since May 2011, citizens from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czeque Republic and Hungary have this right. But only, if you can prove that you were a member of a statutory health insurance in your home country.

For example. You are from Poland. You must get official confirmation that you were member of the Polish statutory health insurance before you came to Germany. Then you must show this Polish health certificate to a German public health insurance provider. The German public health insurance must accept you as a member – even if you are not employed in Germany.

If you are registered in Germany as unemployed, you can apply for public health insurance at AOK.

If you’re not from one of these countries and you don’t have a job, then you need to get private health insurance.

What is the difference between statutory and public health insurance? It means that same in this article.

#6 What is private health insurance like in Germany?

Do you want to get private health insurance (private Krankenversicherung)?

Private health insurance usually translates into less waiting times, more test/treatments and individually fixed membership fees.

Why more treatments?

Well, doctors make more money with a private patient.

So it is not unheard of that they do more tests and treatments with a private patient than with a public health insurance patient. Simply because they earn money with it.

What else is important to know?

If you get private health insurance, your family members are not automatically insured. So it is a lot more expensive. You must insure each family member with a private insurance and pay membership fees for each member separately.


In public health insurance, this is different.

For example.

Person A is employed in Germany and is member of public health insurance. Then the spouse and children are also member of public health insurance. For free. Yes. Sounds unbelievable, but that’s Germany.

It is also possible than one parent has private health insurance. And then children and the other parent have public health insurance!


Applying for private health insurance can be complex.

Private health insurance providers sometimes look at your medical history to calculate your membership fee.

Women generally must pay higher membership fees than men.

If you earn more than 4700 Euros per month, you have a ‘good’ medical history, then private insurance might be a good option for you.

#5 Should I go private or public?

get a private health insurance in Germany

Do I get better treatment, if I’m privately insured? How expensive is statutory health insurance in Germany? These are common questions that foreigners and expats face upon their arrival in Germany. We’ve made life easier for you: Find out the main advantages and disadvantages of private and statutory health insurance below.

How good is Public Health Insurance in Germany?


+  relatively cheap, if you don’t have a high salary; your employer pays half of your contribution, so you pay roughly 7.6% of your salary

+  if you have public health insurance in Germany, then your wife/husband and children are insured along with you, for free

+  conditions and fees are fixed by state, so there will be no price fluctuations


  • you need to be a student, employed, or registered as unemployed in Germany
  • you may have to ask more explicitly for certain tests to be done; not everything may get covered by the public health insurance
  • you may have to wait longer to get an appointment; this particularly applies to appointments at specialists

How good is German private health insurance?


+  fee is independent of salary, so may be cheaper, if you have a high salary

+  high quality treatments

+  no waiting times for appointments


–   each of your family members needs to pay private health insurance membership separately

–   the application for private insurance is more complex than for statutory health insurance, as medical history is taken into account

–   not advisable for people with a severe medical history, as membership fee may be extremely high

Get German Health Insurance

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