In Germany, you can get insurance for almost everything you can think of. It can be quite overwhelming as an expatriate to figure out which insurance you need and what to look out for when choosing insurance products. In this guide, I deep dive in expatriate insurance – What you need to know about the most important insurance to get as a foreigner in Germany. Also what you should be looking out for in choosing the best expat insurance for your current situation.
Types of Insurances in Germany and Which Ones I Need as an Expatriate
There are not many differences in the kinds of insurances you need as an expatriate and a German citizen. There are several factors that can go into deciding the best insurance to get and sometimes if you can get them at all. Some of the factors include:
- How much you earn
- Are you an employee or self-employed
- How old you are
- If you own property
- If you own pets
- If you own a car
How much these factors play a role in your insurance will become clear very soon.
Mandatory Insurance for Expatriates and Everyone living in Germany
There are some insurances that are compulsory for everyone living in Germany. There are also those that are compulsory to a particular group of people. For example, car insurance is compulsory if you own a car.
At the very minimum, you need two insurances – Health insurance and private liability. You will find private liability insurance in the important but not mandatory section. Though not compulsory, it is highly recommended and does not cost so much.
Health Insurance – Krankenversicherung
You cannot live in Germany without health insurance. Everyone – citizen or expatriate has the right to good healthcare. There are two health insurance systems in Germany; both of which are really good when it comes to coverage. There are statutory health insurance and private health insurance systems. Which one to get depends to an extent on your situation.
Private Health insurance – Privatkrankenversicherung
Also known as PKV, Private health insurance is attractive to most expatriates because they are young – which makes the deductibles are lower. Only about 10% of the people living in Germany opt for private health insurance. However, not everyone qualifies to take private health insurance. To be able to get private health insurance you
- earn at least 64350 Euros per year as an employee – If you do earn less than that you are automatically Pflichtversichert.
- have a mini-job. As a mini jobber, you have the option to choose between the public and private health insurance systems
- are a civil servant
- are a student. Students under 25 are covered by their parents’ health insurance. You can choose both private or public systems if you have to get your own health insurance. Also, students who are taking German classes and not yet matriculated in a German university.
As a student, you can choose either private or public health insurance at the beginning of your studies. You will stay in the chosen system for the rest of your student life.
- are self-employed
- if you are a freelancer
Public Pension Insurance – Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung
Public health insurance is less complicated. Apart from the few advantages of the private insurance system, it covers all medical conditions. 90% of the German population opt for this. The Krankenkasse (Health insurance providers) are non-profit.
Contributions are calculated according to how much you earn (with a cap). For employees, your employer will pay half of your contribution. I wrote about health insurance in an earlier article. You can find all the insurance providers and what their contribution rates are.
Expat Health Insurance
If you are not planning on staying in Germany for long – If you plan on staying for less than 5 years there are some more alternatives. These are easier to obtain and are accepted when you first get to Germany. However, if you need to renew your visa, you will not be able to present this as your health insurance to the Ausländerbehörde.
European Health Insurance Card – EHIC
If you are coming from an EU member country, you can use your health insurance from home temporarily. Erasmus students can also use their EHIC for their entire studies. If you decide to take up employment in Germany then you will have to get German health insurance.
Public Pension Insurance – Gesetzliche Rentenversicherung
The statutory pension insurance scheme is compulsory for most people in Germany. Every employee is required to pay into it. This is automatically deducted from your salary by your employer. Old-age poverty is quite prevalent in Germany.
According to studies, for most people what they get from their pension plan will not be enough to sustain them. It is therefore recommended to also look into ways to supplement your pension check whilst young.
You can also opt for the public pension scheme if you are self-employed. There are some vocations that are required to contribute to pay into the public insurance scheme even if they are self-employed. For example.
- Care workers
- Maritime pilots
Car Insurance – Autoversicherung
The minimum insurance you need as a car owner is liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung). If you get into an accident, you should at least have insurance to cover the damages to the other car, person or property.
You have the option to get partial (Teilkasko-Versicherung) or comprehensive (Vollkasko-Versicherung) coverage if you would like to insure your car as well. This makes the most sense if you buy a fairly expensive car.
Driving a car in Germany without at least liability insurance is illegal and can get quite expensive for you if you are caught or get into an accident.
Dog Owners Insurance -Hundeversicherung
Dog insurance is not compulsory in every Bundesland (state) in Germany. However, if you live in the following federal states, you have to get liability insurance for your dog when they are between 3 to 6 months old.
- Lower Saxony
In other states, you can choose to not get Hundehaftpflichtversicherung but it is generally recommended.
Home Insurance – Wohngebäudeversicherung
Property Owners: If you own property, you have to get home insurance. Home insurance will cover damage caused by elements such as fire, storms, and lightning.
Not mandatory but Important
Private Liability – Privathaftpflichtversicherung
Known as Privathaftpflichtversicherung, private liability is one of the most important insurance that every expat in Germany should get. You never know when you will run into a bad situation.
Private liability can save you from unforeseen costs that can run you into bankruptcy. It is also not very expensive. You can get a good Privathaftpflichtversicherung for about 50 Euros or a bit more than that per year.
For families, you can get private liability to cover your whole family. It is more cost-effective than getting one for every individual in your household.
What the Privathaftpflichtversicherung covers
Here are some situations that your insurance will kick in
- accidents through neglect in minor supervision
- accidents through neglect of traffic safety obligations
- accident as a pedestrian or cyclist
- accident as a participant in sporting activities
- damage to rental homes
- losing someone else’s office or apartment keys
- water damage common household items
- damage from the exchange, transmission and provision of electronic data(this does not apply to downloading torrents)
Self Employed and High Earning: Krankentagesgeld
This can be practical for the self-employed. Being self-employed will sometimes mean that you will not be getting money back from the Krankenkasse if you take ill. You can cushion your self by taking the Krankentagegeld.
Travel Health Insurance -Reisekrankenversicherung
Some health insurance plans may cover you outside Germany. If your health insurance provider does not cover this, you can get travel health insurance for when you travel. Especially for business people and frequent flyers, it can be good to be secured in this sense.
Talk to your health insurer. Also, some credit cards provide some coverage. Public health insurance providers sometimes cover some of these costs. Costs such as seeing a doctor outside Germany or the cost to fly you back to Germany for medical attention.
Disability Insurance – Berufsunfähigkeitsversicherung
Knock on wood, if you for any reason cannot work because of an injury or psychological reasons, you might not have paid enough into your pension scheme to guarantee a good source of income for the rest of your life. That is why you need disability insurance. How much disability insurance will pay you depends on how long you have contributed. So it makes sense to start as early as possible.
If you have enough savings and investments to when the unknown happens, you may not need it.
Life Insurance – Risikolebensversicherung
Life insurance is not the most pleasant insurance to take out. I do not exactly mean taking out life insurance on your partner. It’s to relieve your children and dependents of debt and assurance of income if you die.
It is especially worth considering if you have a mortgage as a single parent. Your dependents will be taken care of and your mortgage will be paid should you kick the bucket.
Not so important but practical
Supplementary Care Insurance – Pflegezusatzversicherung
This is the type of insurance you take out to supplement costs when you need a caretaker. Health insurance providers pay for caretakers but only to a certain extent.
Child Disability Insurance – Kinderinvalidätsversicherung
Parents can take out child disabilities for if their child should become disabled. This is similar to disability insurance for employees and self-employed. As soon as the child starts working they have to transition to regular disability insurance.
Basic Pension – Basis Rente Absicherung
The Basis Rente Absicherung is geared towards freelancers and the self-employed. Especially if you did not opt for the public pension scheme, it can provide some security for you in your retirement age. It is also a good way to supplement the public pension plan.
Employee Pension Schemes – Betriebliche Rente
Some employers give employees the opportunity to enrol in pension schemes. The conditions differ from employee to employee. Some employees will match your contributions. This is basically free money – so it will be good to consider this.
If you change your employer, you can negotiate with your next employer to continue paying into it or continue paying on your own.
Legal Protection Insurance – Rechtsschutzversicherung
Legal disputes are very expensive. More often than not you do not plan to get into situations where you need legal representation. If you do you will be glad you have legal expense insurance.
What is covered differs depending on the insurance company and tariff. For example, as most insurance products in Germany, you have a deductible (Selbstbeteiligung). Also, some insurance tariffs include an initial legal consultation. You can talk to a lawyer to access if you have a case. Here it may be better to have a tariff that does not require you to go to a lawyer chosen by the insurance company.
Rechtsschutzversicherung can have other limits such as not covering you when you are getting a divorce. Most products also do not cover criminal cases. There is also the possibility to have insurance for criminal cases on condition that the courts do not find you guilty. If they do, you pay back your legal bills.
You cannot run to get legal cost insurance when you see a lawsuit coming your way. It is very common that you will have a waiting period in your contract depending on your protection. For example, you cannot plan to get into a motor accident, so there might be little to no waiting time. However, for personal disputes, you may have to wait about 3 – 6 months before you can make a claim.
Hospitalisation Insurance – Krankenhauszusatzversicherung
Krankenhauszusatzversicherung is insurance to guarantee you some more comfort when you need medical care in a hospital. You could get a single room or be attended to only by specialists and chief physicians. If this a product that you think you will need, the earlier the better. It gets more expensive the older you get.
Accident Insurance – Unfallversicherung
Most people are unable to work because of sickness. In this case, the disability insurance covers you in this case. If you work in an accident-prone environment, then it would be good to get the Unfallversicherung.
Some Other Types Of Insurance
- Phone Insurance – Handy Versicherung
- Glass Breakage Insurance – Glasbruchversicherung
- Travel Cancellation – Reiserücktrit
How To Choose The Right Insurance in Germany
Before you get any insurance, consider looking around to see what your options are. You should compare other insurance products to see what other insurance providers are providing in the price range. Sometimes it is better to pay 5 Euros more for an additional component than to save on the price.
Insurance Comparison in Germany
You can compare insurance prices using comparisons engines such as:
English Speaking Insurance providers
Here are some apps and startups that offer various kinds of insurance for expats and english speakers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Being a private patient has it advantages. You get more access since you pay your bills upfront. You are likely to get a doctor/surgical appointment faster than someone with public health insurance. Depending on your age and medical condition, you may pay less than in the public health insurance scheme
Since your tariff is very dependent on several factors, it is generally best to consider getting private insurance if
1. You are healthy
2. You are young (Not older than 40 years)
3. Your income source is guaranteed or you are wealthy
4. You do not work in a dangerous profession (e.g Stuntman, Späti owner, etc.)
Pre-existing medical conditions can make your private health insurance quite expensive. This includes but not limited to
1. High blood pressure
4. Spine conditions
6. Cardiovascular conditions
Pflichtversichert means literally compulsory/mandatory insured. If you do not earn more than 64,320 Euros or self employed, you have no other choice than to be enrolled in the statutory health insurance scheme. Healthcare is a basic right in Germany. Nobody should be without access to proper healthcare. Being forced to be the public insurance system ensures that everyone is covered.