A valid health insurance is required for studying in Germany. In this article you will find out what types of insurance are available and get an overview of the available offers.
In principle, the German healthcare network is one of the best in the world in case of illness and people in need are not left alone.
Foreign students basically have two choices. You can choose between statutory and private health insurance for your studies. Both insurance types have advantages and disadvantages.
Health insurance: Choosing between statutory or private insurance for students?
Statutory health insurances are a good choice and are usually uncomplicated! They are the simplest solution for most foreign students. But it is often a little more expensive.
Private health insurance are something for economical students and visiting students. For longer stays, it is worth considering whether statutory health insurance does not offer fewer risks.
What are the differences for foreign students?
Those who come to Germany for a course of study have to organize many things and pass numerous tests. Sometimes an honest opinion from your contacts is worth a lot. This overview shows you some selection criteria for health insurance companies for a warm start in Germany.
Advantages of statutory health insurance for foreigners
Statutory health insurance is usually very convenient.
The registration procedure is very standardized among the health insurance companies.
You don’t have to worry about the registration process until you arrive in Germany. When arriving in Germany, you can easily find and register for any health insurance company. However, the health insurance company should have an office in the city where you want to study. Then you have a contact person in the city where you live and don’t have to talk about your problems on the phone in stuttering German or English.
The costs of the statutory health insurance for students are regulated. Among the health insurance companies there are only very small differences of usually only 2 to 5 euros per month.
A big advantage for you is that you have very transparent fees and you don’t have to deal with doctors’ bills in most cases.
By the way, you should register your health insurance as soon as you arrive in Germany. The beginning of the validity of your health insurance begins at the beginning of the semester. If you need health insurance for the period between your arrival and the beginning of your studies, you can also take out travel health insurance on the Internet. You may also use your travel health insurance from your home country.
Advantages of private health insurance for foreign students
It is difficult for anyone who tries to put every single euro on the scales and save money at all ends.
With private health insurance, you can often save money and benefit from being a student. Sometimes even the benefits of private health insurance companies are better than those of statutory health insurances.
With inexpensive additional options, it is easy to extend services that are not available in the standard tariff. This way you gain more control and are better protected from certain things.
The major differences to statutory health insurances are due to the pricing factors. Depending on how flexible your contract is, you may experience financial bottlenecks if you accidentally have to study longer. In this case, the additional costs of a private insurance can sometimes be considerably higher than those of a statutory health insurance!
However, private health insurances, especially insurance companies which are being offered directly via the Internet, often do not have a fixed contact person in the city where you live. This can sometimes be a disadvantage.
In case of illness: Invoices from doctors
With a statutory health insurance
Statutory health insurance companies are easy to bill. Visiting the doctor is free of charge for students and the health insurance company provides all the services agreed upon in full. It is also easier for students to do so, because doctors usually know which services are covered by the health insurance company on a “flat-rate” basis.
Students can use their plastic cards to visit almost any doctor and ask for an appointment if they have health issues. Most medications are also paid for by the health insurance.
Medical bills in case of membership in the statutory health insurance:
- In case of illness or complaints go to the doctor.
- Medical history and treatment are done by the doctor
- When the doctor prescribes a prescription:
A) The client gets a normal prescription. The costs are covered by the health insurance.
B) The patient gets a private prescription. The costs are to be paid by the patient up to a certain amount.
The costs of treatment shall be covered by the health insurance fund unless there is explicit special treatment recommended by the doctor. The treatment is usually free of charge and the patient is well supplied by the doctor.
Private health insurance companies
In the case of private health insurance companies, the invoices for patients often differ from one another. Private health insurance companies usually charge the patient for the treatment. The patient then sends an application to the health insurance company and receives partial or full reimbursement of the costs for the treatment – depending on the chosen tariff. The rest has to be paid by the patient on his own.
Medical bills in case of membership with a private health insurance fund:
- In case of illness or complaints go to the doctor.
- Medical history and treatment are done by the doctor –
When the doctor prescribes a prescription:
The patient receives a prescription and has to pay the costs for now mostly on his own.
- The patient receives an invoice from the doctor
- This invoice is sent by the patient to the private health insurance company
A) The invoice will be taken over by the health insurance according to the tariff. The cost of the medication is usually reimbursed.
B) If the invoice is NOT covered by the health insurance company, the patient must pay in full.
The most straightforward option for most foreign students is to obtain a statutory health insurance. The organization is usually easier!
Some examples of well-known companies
Selection of statuary / state health insurances
It is the best-known of all health insurance companies. There are many customers. The statutory mandatory benefits are fully provided.
The AOK has a uniform fee and tariff model for its customers.
The TK is very popular all over Germany and is particularly popular amongst young customers – maybe because of its modern name. The statutory mandatory benefits are fully provided.
The TK has a uniform fee or tariff model for its customers.
The Knappschaft is a nationally known health insurance company and is often even relatively close to universities. In the past, only a very small number of professional groups had access to this health insurance fund.
Like all statutory health insurance companies, the Knappschaft also has uniform fees for students.
The statutory mandatory benefits are fully provided.
Selection of private health insurances
Barmenia offers relatively cheap contracts for students and has a good reputation as an insurance company.
With a large number of consultants, it can offer good service.
HanseMerkur offers young people and students an attractive range of services and the service covers a wide spectrum with additional services.
As a large company, HanseMerkur offers a wide range of different types of insurances for a large number of customer groups.
Registration and admission to health insurance
Statutory health insurance
In case of a statutory health insurance the registration is very easy. All you need to do is basically just to fill out the application form.
Registration with statutory health insurance:
- E.g.: After arrival in Germany
- Search for a health insurance company near your home (for example via Google Maps)
- Let yourself be advised and make a contract:
A) Go to the consultation hours without an appointment.
B) Go with appointment to the office hours of the health insurance company.
An appointment is particularly useful if you have questions that you want to ask in English. Especially then it is worth waiting for an appointment. The company may not have always a person in house, who speaks English.
During the interview you can ask all your questions and you will be informed about your insurance.
Private health insurance companies
With private health insurance, the registration process is somewhat more complex. Some insurance companies first send an offer before the contract is signed.
Registration with private health insurance company:
- Before or after arrival in Germany
- Search for a special offer for students (see above)
- Fill out the application form.
- Depends on the insurance company:
A) You will receive a confirmation by email a few days after “order”.
B) You will receive an offer from the insurance company and have to confirm it.
Private insurance offers are usually tailored to your individual needs. It is therefore important that you read the contract carefully. If there are any mistakes, these can be reasons for a price increase.
Prescriptions in Germany: How to get a medicine
Foreign students should know how to distinguish the prescriptions that are issued by the doctor. Therefore, here is the difference between red and blue (white) recipes.
Das rote RezeptThe red prescription is given when a doctor prescribes a medicine that is covered by your health insurance. For you, this medication is usually free of charge or sometimes a maximum of 10 Euro co-payment. With this prescription you don’t have to worry about costs, as long as you follow the prescription within 28 days. The recipe itself can be applied within 3 months, but you may have to pay for it by yourself.
The blue or white prescription
You will receive the blue prescription as member of a private insurance or for a private service.
If the medication is prescribed to you, you must send the bill to your health insurance company for reimbursement of a portion of the total amount. Depending on the tariff, you will be reimbursed part of the costs, if you do not have to pay a deductible.
The “blue” prescription is also a white paper in some cases. In this situation, the prescription is also valid if it has been signed and stamped.
The blue recipe is valid for 3 months.
If you want to submit a white or blue prescription to your health insurance company for reimbursement, you should also include a copy of your doctor’s bill with the invoice for the medicine. Health insurance companies can easily see that the drug has been prescribed as part of a medical treatment.
Caution: We ask all students to inform themselves independently about the rates and contracts of insurance agencies.
Travelling to other European countries
Both insurance schemes are fair in themselves and must comply with a minimum legal standard in order to be accepted by higher education institutions.
However, private health insurances are not in all respects similar to each other! There is often a big difference between statutory and private health insurance companies when travelling to other European countries.
In case of private health insurances, some insurance companies do not offer insurance cover for some of the students. For private and business travel in the Schengen area or in EU countries, customers must ask their health insurance company in advance to avoid being left behind at their own expense.
EHIC für EU-Staatsangehörige
Reference for EU citizens: If you already have health insurance in another EU member state, you may be exempt from the insurance obligation! You should check if your health insurance card is an EHIC card.
In Europe, there are common treaties between the individual countries. One of these treaties aims to protect the health of all EU citizens.
If you have a health insurance in your home country, you often do not have to take out an additional health insurance for your studies in Germany.
Your health insurance company in your home country can provide you with information. Contact your insurance company to find out if your health insurance policy covers your studies abroad in Europe.
Important: Switching between health insurances
The choice of health insurance is binding for the full time of study!
Some students want to have a cheap private rate up to the age of 30 or up to the 14th semester, and then change to a statutory rate – this is usually not possible.
If you start your Master’s programme with a private health insurance, you must keep it until the end of your studies. The other way around too, of course!
Some risk factors when choosing the right health insurance company