German Healthcare System Overview
When it comes to health insurance, Germany may seem to have a complicated system, but in fact, it's much more straightforward than it first appears.
How does German health insurance work?
The vast majority of residents in Germany are part of the statuary public healthcare insurance system (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung, GKV) whereby contributions from employers and employees are paid via social security payments. This is paid to one of the main public healthcare insurers, such as Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), which hospitals and doctors make claims to whenever their services are used. The public healthcare system is heavily subsidized by the German government.
Those with private healthcare insurance (Private Krankenversicherung, PKV) can access the same services and doctors, as well as some private-only doctors, who will claim the private health insurer when their services are used.
What is the difference between private and public health insurance in Germany?
The main difference between public and private healthcare is how it is paid for. Public healthcare is paid for by a combination of employee and employer contributions and is deducted from the gross wage payment of the employee. Private healthcare may well also be paid for by a combination of employer and employee contributions (in the case of civil servants), but usually, payments come simply from the insured individual, directly to the provider.
Healthcare in Germany is excellent, and those who use the public system ultimately receive a similar level of care as those that use the private system; however, those on a private insurance package may also be able to access additional healthcare add-ons such as advanced dental treatment.
Find out more about private insurance on our Private Healthcare in Germany page.
What is statutory health insurance in Germany?
It is mandatory by law for all residents and visitors in Germany to have some sort of healthcare cover, whether that’s statutory public healthcare, private healthcare, or some other valid form for short-term visitors. You must have health insurance in Germany, no matter whether you are unemployed or employed.
Public healthcare is subscribed to by around 90% of the German population, and any employee earning under 60,750 € a year will automatically be enrolled for this kind of health insurance. Those earning above this amount, freelance workers, those working part time and earning under 450€ a month, and some students have the option to choose private healthcare insurance instead. Although enrolment in the public scheme is mandatory for most, individuals can still choose from different health insurance providers or Krankenkassen.
Find out more about statutory health insurance on our Public Healthcare in Germany page.