Your health is your wealth

After you’ve found somewhere to live in Germany, registered your address, opened your bank account, applied for a tax number and left your religion, the next thing you’ll have to contend with is the health insurance issue.

Having health insurance is compulsory in Germany. While I think this is a nice idea in theory, as someone who goes to the doctor maybe once a year, it can also feel like you’re sitzpinkelling your money away.

Still, you really have no choice on this one. Even if you decide to be a rebel, and don’t take out health insurance for a few years, Germany will eventually send the Gerichtsvollzieher (bailiffs) after you and you will owe the full amount of health insurance premiums since you moved here, plus 1% interest. And that probably is as scary as it sounds.

After the bailiffs have been round
After the bailiffs have been round

If you’re in full-time employment, your employer has to cover 50% of your health insurance. If, however, you’re a freelancer (like me), you have to take the whole hit yourself. Although there is a lot of information about German health insurance online, I decided to save time and just ask some people I knew who they were with. TK Insurance won the poll, so I looked up their website.

Here’s the general gist – your contribution is calculated as a percentage of your gross salary. Currently, this is 14.6 percent (general contribution rate) plus a TK-specific additional contribution rate of 0.8 percent. Yikes. There was also this rather confusing section on the application form…

Um...
Um…

What if I earn between €450 and €4,575 a month?

I decided to stop faffing about online and just call an actual person. When I’d hung up, I decided I probably would need health insurance after all, as the information had given me a minor coronary. Even if you don’t earn anywhere near €4,575 a month (which I don’t), they’ll assume that the absolute minimum amount you’re earning is €2,100 and calculate your contribution based on that figure – whether you’re actually earning that much or not. This would have made my monthly contribution €314.69 – and would have meant that I would be moving into a doctor’s surgery to try to get my money’s worth.

Fortunately, I’m a firm believer in ranting so that’s exactly what I proceeded to do when I got to the staff room the next day. As luck would have it, one of the other teachers had just sorted out his health insurance that morning, for the princely sum of €75 a month. This sounded more like it.

I went home and looked up Mawista. It really does exist and is an insurance company dedicated exclusively to covering foreigners living in Germany, for up to five years. Their “Employee Flexible” package costs just €75 a month and covers medical treatment, dental treatment, temporary stays outside Germany, and even massages (though probably not the kind with the happy ending). Essentially, it covers almost everything TK does, but at less than a quarter of the price. Sign me up.

I filled in the ridiculously simple online application form and was informed that my application was being sent for processing and I would have my documents shortly. This was at 11.38. I went and took my washing out of the washing machine and was just hanging it up when I glanced at my laptop. It was 11.43 and my documents had arrived. I was covered.

I haven’t needed to go to the doctor or dentist yet, but hey, I think I might just start going once a month anyway. I may as well try to get some use out of the €75 a month that I would otherwise be spending on wine and cake…

Delicious tooth decay
Delicious tooth decay

 

Useful information for foreigners living in Germany can be found here

 

 

 

 

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108 thoughts on “Your health is your wealth”

  1. Hi! Thanks for your post, super useful information here 🙂 I was wondering if you could help me out on this, as I’m finding myself in a similar situation!

    I’ve been in Berlin for a few months now and I didn’t know about this insurance thing, since I’m working remotely for a company in a different country… now of course, I’m paranoid. Is Mawista accepted as a legitimate health insurance for freelancers, here in Germany?

    I’m scared that it isn’t! I’m soon about to register for the tax ID and all that, and I don’t know if Mawista is a good option to be legal for the short-term. What happens after you run out of your service? Can you easily still jump back on public/private health insurance, as regualrly employed people do?

    I’m still very paranoid about everything and I should have taken care of things sooner… so any comment is greatly appreciated!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, I feel your pain! We try so hard to do everything right but there’s just so much to take care of!
      With regards to your question, I’m no expert. I think Mawista is meant to be seen as a short-term solution for freelancers/students, etc. You have to renew it every year but it covers pretty much everything the other policies do. As far as I know, it’s not a “Krankenkasse” insurance which could be a problem down the line but I don’t know if it’s a legal issue or not. You can hop back and forth between public/private I think as a friend of mine did it when she lost her job in a bar. Sorry if I’m just causing more confusion – I’m still struggling to figure everything out myself! But there’s no way I can afford over €300 a month so I’ll be sticking with Mawista for now. All the best with everything – drop me a line if I can help out with anything! Linda.

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      1. Haha no worries Linda, thank you so much for your help. And yes, I’m more and more confused each day 😛 especially because it’s also been hell trying to find an available accountant in Berlin. I think I’ll go with Mawista just so I can be “legal” until I sort out my registration as a freelancer. Making the switch from working remotely to being fully based in Germany is being such a bureaucratic pain 😦 but I’ll go with with Mawista for now. Just a quick q: do you have to sign up for the whole year? Is it renewable on a per month basis? In any case, all the best and loads of thanks for the information again 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hi again! It looks like you can sign up by the month! It says minimum 1 month – it might be more expensive if you do it that way though. You can give them a call – they were very nice whenever I spoke to them. And spoke good English 🙂 Best of luck!

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  2. The German Health insurance is not admitting people like me, who doesn’t belong to the European union.

    When it comes to the auslaenderbohoerde (the office that providing the working visa) Mavista is also not the best one.
    the insurance period of Mavista is limited for 5 years and might not be accepted by the Immigration Authority.
    it covers less treatment then the british ALC” health insurance company.

    ALC considered to be more “respectable”, regarding to the working visa.
    There is a very nice insurance agent in Berlin. His name is Ilan Weiss versicherung. He speaks fluent English and helped me a lot when I was confused about the German rules and conditions.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Low quality, but people have it. Unlike in the U.S. where it is hard to get. and Insurance is so expensive. But even when you pay for it. They may not approve certain treatments. Honestly, I am not sure which is worse. Serbia or the U.S.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Holy cats! €75 is an absolute steal. I’ve never heard of that company before, and that would’ve been great to know about three years ago! Unfortunately that ship has probably sailed for me, and anyway, I’m now stuck paying over €300/month for the private insurance for the next two years. 😦 But after the absolute rodeo that we went through last fall to get it, I’m just happy to have anything! And luckily for me, BV is fairly lax on if I pay rent, so when teaching hours are low, he lets me off the hook. Gott sei Dank for that one!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Considering we just got the contract, I doubt I can get out of it. Your option probably wouldn’t be possible for me though, as I’ve already been here 3 years, and the insurance agent really worked to find us a loophole so I wouldn’t get hit with a possible €20k+ penalty. I wrote about it back in December… it’s not a happy read, haha. So I’ll stick with what I’ve got for the moment. We might be able to get the premium down if I lose some weight (insult to injury right there), but we have to see. I’m absolutely going to the doctor as often as possible though, if I’m paying this much. I’ve already been there 4 times in 3 months, which is more than the last 5 years at least. Next up, the eye doctor, as I’m out of contacts and want to join the legions of Deutsch in their super stylish frames. To the Ray-Bans!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ha, some guy in a bar asked me if he’d left his glasses somewhere around my seat. I had a quick look and found them under the sofa – they didn’t even have lenses. Pretentious git 😉 Thank god (or whoever) you got out of the €20,000 fine anyway! That would have been BRUTAL!

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          1. Poser alert! Poser alert! Haha. Sounds like my first real trip to Berlin… all I kept saying to my friend was, “wow, you really can’t swing a cat around here without hitting a hipster, can you?”
            And nooooo kidding. That would’ve been my cue to get the hell out of Dodge. No way that was gonna happen!

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Things like this make me kind of happy that I’m still on my parents insurance. I have absolutely no idea how much my step-dad pays, but it’s a pretty penny. And on top of that I’ve got to pay $30 every time I visit the doctor even if she only walks in the room. Granted, that’s not that much, but I have to visit the doctor more often than “normal people” (a.k.a. healthy people). Curse you failing thyroid! I have absolutely no concept of how insurance works. I’m a sad excuse for an adult. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s around twice that in Ireland! I don’t think I ever had health insurance there – or anywhere else. I’m a pretty bad adult as well 😉 Germany forces you to grow up a bit in some respects! I’ll have to get this pension thing sorted soon too… Sigh 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Now why did you have to go and remind me to get my health insurance renewed??! Bugger! However it is crazy cheap in India by comparison… good thing as I do not want to know what my lungs look like after a decade+ in all the mad pollution!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. YAY….glad you got your insurance…..so, so, SO important! And it seems you found a reasonable deal. But when you write stuff like this:

    “I filled in the ridiculously simple online application form and was informed that my application was being sent for processing and I would have my documents shortly. This was at 11.38. I went and took my washing out of the washing machine and was just hanging it up when I glanced at my laptop. It was 11.43 and my documents had arrived. I was covered.”

    I admit I am a little jealous……a simple form….quick turnaround time…..ha, ha, ha…..I have never experienced such a thing even to buy a loaf of bread….. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Jan had trouble finding someone who would cover him for occupational disability insurance (if that’s what it’s called? What you take out so if you become unable to perform your job you get money) because he’s diabetic and therefore has a greater risk of becoming unable to work. The one he finally ended up with makes him pay douböe what “normal” people do! The health insurance has to cover him though, and can’t charge any extra – it’s the law!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. We are registered with an Italian GP but have never had to visit (touch wood). Mind you, I should have been to get the stupid medical certificates which you need to play sports, join a gym etc. They can be anything from €20 to €100! I just present a letter that I’ve written myself (in English to baffle them) saying I’m fit and healthy and this has always been accepted!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. okay Linda I really have to majorly disagree with you. 75 EURO a month is really not that bad, compare that to the US! but you get free doctor appointments, most medidcine will only cost you 5 Euros and should bad shit happen to you, you ll get a free surgery. even though Im a really healthy person I dont mind spending 80 Euros a month and have the guarantee that should I evevr get cancer or smth I ll get free treatment and my family wont have to put their money together in order to help me survive. a few years ago I had breathing problems and I was offered a free surgery on my nose to help me breathe that would have otherwise cost 16 thousands euros. I declined the offer (I knew I would get better sooner or later and I did) but it was nice to know that my health is more or less protected.

    last year an american friend of mine went to a doctor appointment because of some small ailment and had to do a whole lot of check ups, from blood test and ultrasound to a brain scan. it was all free and he said that in his native country the medical bills for this check up would definitely be over a hundred. God bless german helath insurance

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, I know you’re right. I’ve just never bothered with health insurance before. It certainly wasn’t compulsory in LV and was pretty cheap to go to the doctor/dentist there anyway. This filling I got cost me €180 here though so I can see the benefits of not having to pay a whack like that all in one go! Hopefully watching the €75 a month disappear will get easier with time 😉

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      1. I dont know about your insurance but mine covers everything but the dentist. you still have to pay 10 euros a visit to a dentist and then you pay for the filling but its not much because the company covers part of it for you. I had three fillings done on my teeth 2 yrs ago for EUR 50 alltogether. also I would sincerely advise you to visit the dentist at least twice a year even if nothing bothers you just for him to tell you you`re healthy. they give you some sort of a book where you put the info on your visits and if you did them on a regular basis you ll get free dental treatment should you get some problems. this is how the insurance company keeps people disciplined) just ask your local dentist for more info

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I still remember Gundega the scary latvian nurse from your blog….. this is what happens if a country has no decent healthcare system and people dont get paid. at least german doctors dont humiliate their patients and act responsibly. there many things I dislike about germany (which is why Id rather live in ireland, uk or usa – people there are just nicer and more life-like) but german health insurance is one of the things I admire

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I thought I would make use of my insurance and see a doctor about a foot problem. Insurance denied my claim saying anything related to feet was non-essential health care. I daresay this might explain where the phrase ‘costs an arm and a leg’ comes from.

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  10. I’m with TK! Obviously as an employed person I only pay half, and it’s automatically taken from my wages so I never even see that money. I still feel like crying every time I see the number on my wage slip though!

    Now I need to figure out how to get health insurance in Switzerland while working in Germany…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is going to be fun 😉 Even if your employer pays half it’s still a lot of money! Another girl I know was paying €120 with an international company but that didn’t even cover doctor/dentist visits. You need to find the Swiss Mawista! 🙂

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      1. I think I’ll have continue paying for health insurance in Germany no matter what, then if I got to a doctor in Switzerland I pick a Swiss provider who then claims the money back from my German provider. Dental care is not included though – I have to get private insurance for that (or find a dentist in Germany).

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I know it seems like a lot, especially when you’re rarely suck, but the peace of mind in knowing you’re covered should something bad happen…so worth it.
    Now that you’re covered go kiss a bunch of randoms and see if you can catch a cold. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m someone who believes in nationalized health insurance, and wishes to hell we had it here in the US. Besides the unfortunate accident I had many years ago (which thankfully was covered by Workman’s Compensation otherwise, considering me a charity case, they would have cut off my leg), I had to have major surgery 14 years ago. I was fully employed but newly employed and my employer, three months in a row, kept forgetting to pay my health insurance premiums. Fortunately, my husband and I were able to get things straightened out in time but talk about stress! The last thing a person needs to think about when they are having a major health crisis is money. Ok, I’ll get off the soap box. All that said, you also don’t need your health insurance premiums to bankrupt you. You have to wonder why there’s such a difference between those two insurance companies. And ours doesn’t even include dental. Dental insurance in the US is a total waste of money. Quick … I need a drink and some chocolate 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Yikes! I don’t think I earn $4575 per month, let alone in Euros! But at least you figured it out….compulsory health care – now why does that suddenly sound familiar to me? Good thing you’ve got it covered. Now you can go on those crazy ski trips and on the race track and know you’re covered 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. 14% of a pay cheque is a lot, unless if it covers breast implants. But maybe you don’t get a lot of other taxes taken off your pay. Plus it sounds like you get sort of an extended medical insurance. In Canada, if you make less than $20,000 a year you get health insurance for free but that only includes doctor visits and non-cosmetic surgeries.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t had to pay any taxes yet but I think it’s going to be around 20% – need to file my tax return by the end of May I think. More fun 😉
      I don’t think it covers boob jobs unfortunately!

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    1. I know, right!? My flatmate still had to pay €160 a month when she was unemployed – I can’t even imagine covering that! There doesn’t seem to be an Italian option – Telecom Italia would probably fail to deliver the documents anyway 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Aw man, Linda… all this information from your posts in the past month or two has been super helpful with deciding if I want to even attempt to move to Deutschland as a (non EU citizen) teaching freelancer or not…. but seeing as my health insurance costs in CZ are about $550/year, I think I might be staying put. Way better to know now than to go in blind, though. I can’t believe some of these hoops you have to jump through!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know! You really only find out when you get here! There are plenty of websites, of course, but you only really get a sense of it when you go through it yourself! That’s why I try to mix the funny with the practical – so people know what they’re letting themselves in for! I’d still say it’s worth it to live here though 🙂

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          1. It’s included in the packet I have to pay every month. My friends tell me to take out a private one, so I don’t have to be on waiting lists forever, but since I’m already entitled to medical care and there’s nothing ever wrong with me, I’m just not inclined to fork out even more of my hard-earned dosh at this point.

            Liked by 1 person

                1. I think I paid around 3 pounds for antibiotics and that was it 🙂 That was just a once-off, of course! Maybe it gets worse the more you have to use it 😉

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    1. I once had to use the NHS – I was so impressed! I got an appointment on the same day I called, and I didn’t have to pay a penny, even as a foreigner! I don’t know why people complain about it either! Most people in Ireland have health insurance I guess – but it costs quite a lot and doesn’t cover dental.

      Liked by 1 person

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