Private health insurance
Private health insurance or private Krankenversicherung, often shortened to just PKV, is chosen by around 10% of the German population. You can only sign up for private healthcare insurance if you fit into one of a set of criteria. This includes:
- Those who earn over €60,750 per year
- Those who earn under €450 per month
- Students aged over 23 but under 30
- Freelance (self-employed) individuals
- Civil servants (insurance is subsidized by employer)
Not all of those who qualify for private healthcare insurance choose to take it, and that’s because the public healthcare scheme is excellent; for some, there may not always seem like a lot to gain from going private.
However private insurance can sometimes mean a higher level of care, shorter waiting times and additional services. For instance, private dental insurance may offer cover major dental work which public healthcare does not. Other times, it means getting a private room after an operation or hospital treatment.
Those on private healthcare schemes have a greater choice of doctors and hospitals as they are able to go to both public healthcare doctors and to private-only doctors. Private insurees may also experience shorter waiting times and have the opportunity to find and speak to a doctor who can communicate well in their native language. But because the healthcare system in Germany is so good, most people don’t feel a big difference between the two aside from these few perks.
In some instances, it’s possible to register for public healthcare, but add private elements to the cover, such as dental insurance. Those who do this are still counted as members of the public healthcare system and fall into the 90%.
How to get private health insurance in Germany?
There are just over 40 private healthcare insurers in Germany, so the first task is to do some research in terms of both cover and prices. In order to register with a private company, German residents need to unenroll with the public healthcare system (which is automatic). They can do this by letting both their employer and the public healthcare fund know. It's important to understand that once someone has chosen to be covered by a private fund, it's not an easy process to come back to the public system. However, it is possible if, for example, your wages have reduced.
Foreign workers moving to Germany need to inform their new employer before they even start, if they are choosing a private healthcare insurer and who their chosen provider is; this will prevent them from being automatically enrolled in the public healthcare system. Make sure you know the name and details of your private insurer, as the contributions will still be deducted from your wages, so you will need to provide this to your new employer. Also, it is very important to check if a private insurer meets the strict guidelines of the German government.
How much does private insurance cost in Germany?
Private health insurance can range hugely in cost. Unlike public healthcare insurance, which costs the same (in terms of contribution %) for everybody, the cost of private healthcare insurance premiums will depend more upon age and health (risk). Those with chronic health conditions may find that public healthcare insurance is significantly cheaper because their private premiums would be so high. People who gain the most from private healthcare are young people in the highest wage brackets with good health.
Unlike public healthcare, where the doctor or hospital claims back money from the insurance fund to cover treatment, those with private insurance are often required to pay the hospital or doctor’s fees and claim the costs back from the insurer themselves.