Tag Archives: Health insurance

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

 

 

 

 

Teething problems

What with all the teething problems I’ve had since I moved to Berlin, it was probably only a matter of time before one of them involved actual teeth. And, ever so obligingly, on Monday evening, one of my fillings popped out of my mouth while I was eating dinner.

This was bad for a number of reasons:

1. I haven’t got around to getting health insurance yet.

2. It was a front tooth and now it had a gaping hole in it.

3. My first German lesson was the following evening.

My (lying kind) German flatmates assured me that you would hardly notice it and gave me the name of a local dentist. After a quick Google, I discovered that you could make an appointment online, so I enlisted one of them to help me write a message in German. From what I remember, it was something about my ‘gefilling gefalling aus’, but I could be wrong there…

Then it was straight on to Facebook for a good old-fashioned pity party.

Me: My gefilling has gefallen aus! I’m hideous! I’m going to be the monster down the back of the classroom that nobody wants to do pairwork with! 

My long-suffering friend: Oh stop. You’ll be fine. 

Me: I will NOT be fine. Maybe I can speak German without opening my mouth? Kind of like a German Godfather? 

MLSF: Or you could put your hand over your mouth and pretend you have Ebola? 

Me: Hmm. I think I’d prefer to be the hideous one than the Ebola-ridden one, but thanks for the idea.

The next day, the surgery called to say that they could give me an appointment on Friday at 13.30. I took it, but had no intention of waiting that long. A quick Google search (what did we do before the internet?) gave me a plethora of options so I called one.

Me: Hello, I need an appointment urgently. It’s a matter of pride and ego. 

Helga: That sounds serious. You can come after 9pm. 

Me: You mean 9am tomorrow?

Helga: No, 9pm tonight. 

Me: Really? Oh, but I have a German lesson until 9.15 – it will be at least 10pm before I can make it. Will you still be open? 

Helga: Of course! We’re open until midnight! 

What was this madness? A dentist? Open til midnight? I decided to take her at her word as the alternative was just too horrible to contemplate. Luckily, I had no students that day so I only scared the waitress in a local café, and the dude in a local jewellery shop. He made the unfortunate mistake of complimenting my German, so, forgetting myself, I beamed at him. I remembered myself quickly as he recoiled in horror.

The cake consoled me.
The cake consoled me.

I spent the rest of the day perfecting a weird half-smile, that could have looked coquettish on the right person, but probably just looked mental on me. Thankfully, in class, I ended up paired with an Italian who was so clueless, my teeth were the last thing on his mind.

When the class ended, I raced to the train and across the city to the magical, mystical, midnight dentist. It was true! It was true! They really were open! After some rather painless (for Germany) form-filling, and some Brando-esque/Ebola-ridden flirting with the cute receptionist, I was sent to the waiting room.

Half an hour later, and rather a lot of money lighter, I left with one perfect German tooth – which really just served to make all the other Irish/Latvian teeth feel inferior. I hope they don’t gang up on the German and push him out – I’m not sure my bank balance could take it.

(More on the lessons in the next post – I’m still digesting.)

Link to magical, mystical, late-opening dentist.