Health Insurance in Germany
Germans have sometimes been accused of being world-class hypochondriacs. Actually, they are tempted to be such because they enjoy one of the world’s best health care systems. As soon as you get yourself established here, you will also be able to avail yourself of this system of universal health care.
Germany has one of the best health care systems in the world, providing residents with comprehensive and universal health insurance coverage. Approximately 85 percent of the population is covered by the state-regulated public health insurance system, while the rest have opted for private coverage. Health insurance is required for all residents, meaning that you will not be able to get a residency permit without proof of adequate insurance.
As in the rest of the world, the costs of the health care system in Germany are immense and rising. Severe demographic problems – low birth rate, an aging population and persistent unemployment – as well as the staggering increase in health care costs worldwide, spell trouble for the future sustainability of Germany’s vaunted health care system. Lawmakers have responded by subjecting Germany’s health care system to a series of reforms, which have translated into higher costs and reduced benefits for patients in the public health insurance system. The latest wave of reforms in 2009 was supposed to increase competition among the country’s 140 state-regulated insurance providers and 40 private insurance companies. Health care reform in Germany is definitely a work in progress with no master plan and each year brings another round of proposals and counter measures. Doctors have threatened to strike to increase their income from the public system, while hospitals have been hard hit by budget cuts. One thing is, however certain: monthly premiums and co-payments continue to creep upward. What follows might seem complicated, but it is worth your time to analyze your own situation and make the right decision when choosing one of the three health insurance options available here in Germany:
- State-regulated public health insurance system (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung or GKV)
- Private health insurance from a German company (Private Krankenversicherung or PKV)
- Private health insurance from an international provider (see below for an important caveat)