Universal health care coverage is one of the great benefits of living and working in Germany. The quality of health care in Germany is high, with general practitioners’ surgeries and hospitals tending to boast cutting-edge technology. There are numerous specialist medical practices, too.
Just like every other developed country in the world, Germany’s health care system is seemingly in a constant state of reform. Increased life expectancy and a consistently low birth rate have created difficulties for the country’s vaunted health care system. The public health system is under financial strain with insurance premiums continuing to rise and the list of fully-covered services getting ever shorter. At the same time, co-payments for prescription drugs and routine medical procedures continue to increase.
The first important point to remember is that health insurance is mandatory for all residents. You must have valid health insurance to be legally employed in Germany. In addition, self-employed freelancers, artists, musicians and dependent family members must all be registered for health insurance. If you require a visa before arriving in Germany, you will have to show proof of adequate health insurance before your visa application is approved. Students must also be registered for health care coverage, but at a substantially reduced rate.
EU citizens are permitted to remain on their home health insurance policies, but it is important to remember that insurance benefits could differ significantly from those in Germany.
In Germany you have two main choices when it comes to medical insurance. About 90% of the German population is enrolled in the state-regulated public health insurance system (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung or GKV). The major advantage of the public system is that unemployed dependents (i.e. spouse and children) are insured at no additional cost. The remaining 10% of the population have chosen to be enrolled in private health insurance from a German company (Private Krankenversicherung or PKV). The quality of care is admittedly better, but premiums are not capped and family members must be separately insured.