Public and private health insurance in Germany: how to chose?

Public and private health insurance in Germany: how to chose?

German health insurance seems expensive and complicated, but in this guide, we explain how to find the best insurance for your needs.

Health insurance (Krankenversicherung) in Germany is not free, but it's mandatory. If you stay in Germany for more than 90 days, you must have health insurance1. In this guide, we explain the difference between public health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) and private health insurance (private Krankenversicherung). We also explain which one is better for you.

This guide was verified by 6 separate health insurance brokers. Special thanks to Rob from Popsure, who answered my questions for several hours.

What are your options?

Germany has a multi-payer healthcare system. There are hundreds of private and public health insurance companies. You can choose any of them. This is different from the UK, Canada, Australia, France, Sweden, Norway and Finland.

Your health insurance is not tied to your employer. Your employer does not decide which insurance you have. If you lose your job, you do not lose your health insurance. This is different from health insurance in the United States.

Your insurance options depend on your income and your job status. Some people can choose public or private health insurance. Other people can only choose public health insurance.

There are two possible statuses:

  • Compulsorily insured (Pflichtversichert)
    Employees who make less than 62550€ per year are compulsorily insured (Pflichtversichert). They can only choose public health insurance. Public health insurers are forced to accept them1.
  • Voluntarily insured (freiwillig versichert)
    Freelancers, students, people with minijobs and employees who make over 62550€ per year are voluntarily insured (freiwillig versichert). They must have health insurance, but they can choose public or private health insurance. Public health insurers are not forced to accept them.

Those people are voluntarily insured1, 2:

  • Students
  • Freelancers
  • Doctors
  • Civil servants
  • People with a single minijob1

Public health insurance

Around 90% of German residents have public health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung or GKV)1, 2. It's also called statutory health insurance. Public insurers are non-profit companies. They are also called sickness funds (Krankenkassen).

The public system in Germany is different from the public system in the UK, Canada, Australia, France, Sweden, Norway or Finland. You have more than one health insurance option. You can chose any Krankenkasse for your health insurance.

Cost of public health insurance

The cost of public health insurance depends on your income. You pay 14.6% to 15.6% of your income every month1. If you make more money, your health insurance becomes more expensive. If you make more than 56250€ per year, the cost of health insurance stops going up. You just pay the maximum amount.

  • If you are an employee, you pay half of your monthly contributions (7.3% to 8.3% of your income). Your employer pays the other half1. The amount is taken directly from your paycheque every month.
    • If you make more than 56250€ per year, you will pay around 400€ per month1. Even if your salary goes up, you won't pay more than that1. This is the maximum contribution (Höchstbeitrag).
    • If you are unemployed1, you will pay around 180€ per month1. This is the minimum contribution (Mindestbeitrag). If your spouse or your parents have public health insurance, you can use their insurance for free. After you register as unemployed, the government pays your health insurance for you1, 2.
    • If you have a minijob, you still need health insurance. If your spouse or your parents have public health insurance, you can use their insurance for free. If not, you will pay the minimum contribution (Mindestbeitrag): around 180€ per month1. Use this calculator to estimate the cost.
    • If you are an Azubi, you are treated like an employee. You pay 7.3% to 8.3% of your income. There is no minimum contribution. If you make less than 325€ per month, your employer must pay your health insurance1.
  • If you are a student under 25 years old, you will pay even less: around 104€ per month1, 2, 3, 4. If you are a EU citizen, you can use your EHIC card. If you make less than 450€ per month, you can also use your parents' public health insurance for free1.
  • If you are a student between 25 and 30 years old, you will pay around 104€ per month1, 2, 3, 4. If you are a EU citizen, you can use your EHIC card. If you are over 25 years old, you can't use your parents' health insurance1.
  • If you are a student over 30 years old, you will pay around 180€ per month1, 2. This is the minimum contribution (Mindestbeitrag). You do not get a special student price anymore. If you just moved to Germany, you might be forced to get private health insurance. Public health insurers can refuse to cover you.
  • If you are a freelancer, you pay 14.6 to 15.6% of your income1. The amount is taken directly from your bank account every month.

If you are a freelancer, the cost is based on your estimated income. If you paid too much, you will get a refund later. If you did not pay enough, you will have to pay more later.

Useful links:

Benefits of public health insurance

  • Public is cheaper when you're old
    Public health insurance is based on your income. If you lose your job or retire, you will pay less for your insurance. When you are old, public health insurance will be much cheaper than private health insurance. If you are over 45 years old, public insurance is almost always the best option.
  • Public is cheaper for students under 30 years old
    Students pay around 104€ per month1 until they are 30 years old. When they turn 30, they pay the Mindestbeitrag: around 180€ per month1.
  • It covers your dependents for free
    Public health insurance covers your children and your unemployed spouse. This is called the Familienversicherung. If your spouse only has a minijob, (s)he is covered by your insurance1. If you plan to have children, public health insurance is a better choice1.
  • It matches your income
    Public health insurance is cheaper when you make less money. If you lose your job or retire, public insurance will remain affordable. Private insurance will get more and more expensive, even if you become unemployed.
  • It requires less paperwork
    Public health insurance is simple. The doctors and the insurance companies talk directly to each other, so there is less paperwork to do. The price won't change as you get older. When you go to the doctor, you just show your insurance card and you're done. You don't need to worry about price changes, coverage, reimbursement or deductibles.
  • You don't pay more for preexisting conditions
    If you are Pflichtversichert, public health insurers can't refuse to cover you. Even if you have health problems, you will not have to pay more for your insurance.

Disadvantages of public health insurance

  • Public is expensive for young professionals
    Public insurance is based on your income, and private insurance is based on your health. If you are young, healthy and have a good income, public will be much more expensive than private.
  • You don't get the best treatment
    Doctors make a lot more money from private patients, so they often treat private patients first1. With private insurance, you will get an appointment the next day, instead of in two weeks. It's also very difficult to find a psychotherapist or urologist who accepts public health insurance1, 2. You still get good treatment, but not the best treatment.
  • Special treatments are not included
    If you want special treatments, you will need to pay the extra cost yourself. When I had my wisdom teeth removed, my insurance only paid for local anaesthesia. General anaesthesia was more expensive, so I had to pay the difference myself. Private insurance lets you choose the quality of your coverage.
  • It's not available for everyone
    If you are a freelancer who just moved from a non-EU country to Germany, it's almost impossible get public health insurance. Public insurance companies are not forced to cover freelancers1. Most expat freelancers are forced to choose private health insurance because of this.

Which public health insurance should I choose?

Public health insurance companies (Krankenkassen) have very similar prices and coverage1. The biggest difference between companies is customer service1.

Rob from Popsure says "as an expat, Techniker Krankenkasse is a no-brainer, by a long way." TK is very popular among expats, because it offers support in English. I have been with TK since 2015, and I am very satisfied. AOK is another very popular public option.

If you don't know which health insurance to pick, you should ask a health insurance broker. Their help is free. They get paid by the insurance companies when they bring new customers.

Useful links:

Private health insurance

Around 10% of German residents have private health insurance1. You can only have private insurance if you are voluntarily insured (freiwillig versichert).

Cost of private health insurance

The cost of private health insurance (private Krankenversicherung or PKV) depends on your age and your health. The older you get, the more expensive it gets. It will be cheaper than public health insurance when you are young, but much more expensive when you get old.

Employees only pay half of their monthly contributions. Their employers pay the other half. Freelancers must pay the monthly contribution themselves1. This is why health insurance seems so expensive for freelancers.

  • Private is cheap when you are young
    A healthy 25 years old man could pay as little as 175€ per month (350€ for freelancers) for private insurance. If you make a good salary, this is much cheaper than public insurance. If you join the private system when you are young, it will be a bit cheaper when you are old.
  • Private is very expensive when you are old
    When you get old, you could pay 1500€ per month for the same insurance! This is a lot of money if you are retired. Your income goes down, but your insurance keeps getting more expensive1. This can easily bankrupt you1, 2. If you are over 45 years old, private insurance is rarely worth it. After 55 years old, it's almost impossible to go back to public health insurance.
  • Private is expensive if you have health problems
    You must take a health test before you get private health insurance. If you have any health issues that need constant treatment, your insurance will be much more expensive. If you have pre-existing conditions, they will often refuse to cover you1. This includes chronic diseases, psychotherapy or expensive medication, for example.
  • You choose what you need
    You can choose dental coverage, travel insurance, special treatment etc. If you choose more options, your insurance will be more expensive. If you choose fewer options, it can be very cheap.
  • You pay less with a higher deductible
    For example, if you have a 3000€/year deductible, you pay the first 3000€ in medical fees yourself, and your insurance pays everything after that. When you have a high deductible, you pay less in insurance every month. If you never go to the doctor, that's a good way to save money.

Who can have private health insurance?

Private health insurance is only an option if you are voluntarily insured (freiwillig versichert).

  • If you are a freelancer, you can always choose private insurance. There is no minimum income. If you are a non-EU freelancer who just moved to Germany, private health insurance might be your only option.
  • If you are an employee and earn more than 62550€ per year (in 2020, before taxes), you can choose private health insurance. Your employer will pay half of your monthly contributions.
  • If you are an employee and earn less than 62550€ per year (in 2020), you can't be privately insured. You must have public health insurance. You can't choose private health insurance.
  • If you are a student, a doctor or a civil servant, you can choose private health insurance. If you are a student over 30 years old, private health insurance can be cheaper than public health insurance. Private health insurers offer special rates for students.

Which private health insurance should I choose?

There are big differences between private health insurance companies. Each insurer offers different options, and the best option depends on your situation.

The best way to choose private health insurance is to ask a health insurance broker. Their help is free. They get paid by the insurance companies when they bring new customers.

Use Tarifcheck to compare private health insurance prices. You enter some information about you, and you get many insurance options and their cost.

Rob from Popsure says that Allianz is a very well organised internally. They handle claims efficiently, so they can offer slightly lower prices. He added that some insurance companies offer some special deals for certain professions. HanseMerkur is also popular with expat freelancers.

Ottonova is a popular option for expats because they offer support in English, but they have their issues.

Useful links:

Travel insurance

Travel insurance covers you for a few weeks when you visit Germany. It only covers medical emergencies, and treatments that can't wait until you return home. It does not cover long term treatments, health checkups or preexisting conditions.

Travel insurance is enough to get a tourist visa, but it is not enough to get a German residence permit.

Expat health insurance

Expat health insurance covers you for up to 5 years. It's much better than travel insurance, but not as good as public or private health insurance.

There are two reasons to get expat health insurance:

  • You plan to live in Germany for less than 5 years
  • or you are applying for a German residence permit for the first time. Expat insurance is easier to get than public or private health insurance.

Expat insurance has a few disadvantages compared to public and private health insurance:

  • Expat insurance is a temporary insurance. It's only valid for up to 5 years. If you settle in Germany, switch to real health insurance as soon as possible. Many freelancers stay on expat insurance for too long. When they need to renew their visa, no insurer wants to cover them. They can't get health insurance, so they can't renew their visa1.
  • Expat insurance is not accepted when you renew a residence permit1, or change to another residence permit. You must have public or private health insurance to renew a residence permit.
  • You usually pay a deductible for basic treatments. Simple checkups and dentist visits are rarely covered. However, long term treatments are 100% covered.

Useful links:

Insurance from other EU countries

If you stay temporarily in Germany, you can use your EHIC card. This proves that your health insurance back home covers healthcare in Germany.

If you are an Erasmus student from another EU country, the EHIC card is enough1, 2. You can use your EHIC card even if you study in Germany for your entire degree1.

Once you start working in Germany, your EHIC card does not cover you anymore. You must get a German health insurance.

The EHIC card is only available to European Union citizens. Read more about it here.

The Künstlersozialkasse (KSK)

The Künstlersozialkasse (KSK) allows freelance artists to save money on health insurance. When you are on the KSK, the state acts as your employer, and pays 50% of your health insurance contributions. If you qualify, it can save you a lot of money!

Applying for the KSK is a long, difficult process. They ask a lot of questions and require many documents. It takes over a month. Staying into the KSK also takes a lot of effort. You must prove that you still qualify every year.

Insurance brokers

Insurance brokers can help you pick the best health insurance, but you still need to do your research first. Only insurance brokers can recommend health insurance companies.

Before you see a broker, understand the difference between public and private insurance. Only a few brokers specialise in public and private health insurance. Many only sell private health insurance, because it pays more.

Always look for independent insurance brokers. Don't choose brokers who work for a single insurance company. They will recommend this company even when it's not the right one for you.

How do insurance brokers get paid?

When you sign a public health insurance contract, the broker will get a commission between 0 and 90€. When you sign a private health insurance contact, the broker's commission is around 9 times your monthly payment. This means they can make above 5000€ in commissions for private insurance. They also receive money every year for "holding" your contract.

Many brokers only sell private insurance, because it makes them much more money.

Switching from private to public health insurance

Switching from private to public health insurance can be extremely hard, and sometimes impossible1, 2. If you are Pflichtversichert, public health insurers are not forced to accept you.

If you are over 55 years old, you can't switch to public insurance anymore1. It's almost impossible1. Otherwise, people would have private health insurance when it's cheaper, and switch to public health insurance when they are old. Public health insurance companies would go bankrupt!

One way to switch to from private to public insurance is to reduce your income and become Pflichtversichert again. Once your income is below 62550€in 2020, you are forced to use public health insurance. This does not work for freelancers, because they are never Pflichtversichert1, 2. They would have to become employees again, then use that technique.

Need help?

Health insurance brokers help you find the best health insurance for your situation. Only brokers can give health insurance recommendations.

We trust Popsure and B-Protected. They helped us write this guide and helped many of our readers find health insurance. They both speak fluent English and have a lot of experience with expats. Keith Tanner is also recommended by many expats1, 2, but he is hard to reach. If you just want to compare health insurance prices, use Tarifcheck.


  • Max

    Students now pay 105.8€

  • Lina

    Thank you very much for your information! It's very helpful!

    It would be nice, if you actualize your website, as there are new changes regarding the 14. Semester. If you pass the 14. Semester, you can still be insured by the public health insurance. Only if you're 30 years old or older your status will change to voluntarily insured.
    And another information, you might check is related visiting psychotherapists with a public health insurance.
    You wrote "It's also very difficult to find a psychotherapist or urologist who accepts public health insurance".
    The public health insurance finance only some types of psychotherapy methods such us cognitive-behavioral, systemic, psychoanalytical and psychodynamic. If you are interested in other methods, you need to pay by yourself. I think, it's difficult to get an appointment with psychotherapist not because of the public health insurance but because of the lack of psychoterapists.

  • Eileen

    I am a 23 year old EU national moving to Germany and starting an internship for 6 months, maybe up to a year. Should I buy Expat health insurance before I go or get statutory health insurance?

  • Dave

    My girlfriend is German, I am British 53 years old. I have been registered in Germany for one year. We bought an old farmhouse and I renovate it so I do not work. I do not intend to work or wish to claim any benefits but understand I need health insurance. Can I pay the minimum into public health insurance and if so how or am I forced to go for private health insurance?
    I have been together with my girlfriend for 13 years but do not want to get married.

  • Gina

    My husband and I have Tricare Overseas Select (Humana Insurance). We are being told that this may not cover the required medical insurance to apply for a Residence Permit in Germany. Can anyone provide some guidance on this? Anyone have any experience on how to document that this private insurance meets the health coverage requirement for German immigration? Thank you so much!

  • Lawrence


    I just arrived in Berlin and did my Anmeldung, now I am busy registering as a freelancer at the Finanzamt. As I am probably only staying a year or 2 in Berlin, I got myself an expat health insurance. This company gave me a proof of insurance (Krankenversicherung Bescheinigung), to show that I am indeed health insured for work in Germany. My questions is: where and when do I need to show this Bescheinigung? Can I show it at the Finanzamt, when I apply for my Steuernummer? Thank you, great website, great help, keep it up!

  • Mafalda Correia

    Im a 18 years old portuguese student and just moved to Study in Munich. I have the EHIC, so this means that is the same as having an insurance card as the TK or the AOK? I just go to any doctor I choose and present this card without paying anything? How can I differentiate from a private to a public when looking for a doctor to go? Thanks a lot.

  • Kabba Brian

    I am an international (non-EU) student under 30 in Germany, i am presently using the public health insurance, it is a little too costly for my, i am thinking of switching to private health insurance.
    Am I allowed to do that? Also, should in case in the future I decide to come back to public, will i be allowed?

  • Swapnil


    I came as dependent of my wife. both now i am also working and my yearly salary is less than 60750€ so my insurance is public and my wife she earns yearly more than 60750 and she also has public health insurance and both are below 30 years old(& healthy).
    So, i am just thinking to change my wife's health insurance to private. so , my question is if she quits a job then what would happen to her private insurance?(so here i have been told by private insurance broker that her private insurance would be no it correct?)
    other cases are like.
    A).if she quits job for certain period e.g. 2 years and since she is unemployed then would she be automatically moved to public insurance?(and if this is the case and she start doing job after 2 years of gap then will she have public insurance?)

    B). and if she quits job forever and since i am going to keep my health insurance public then would she be covered from my public insurance as she is going to be dependent on me?

    c). if we have a kids and she quits job for them so would all of them be covered from my public insurance?

    Thank you in Advance...!!

  • KAt

    I was insured by TK for almost 3 years in the last 5 years.
    I started studying, I couldnt afford TK as a 31 year-old student (170 per month).
    I got Mawista for some months. I am still studying, I have no job. Can I go back to TK, as freiwillige versichert or other option? Is TK a real private insurance or a reiseversicherung? Because I read once you are in Private versicherung you cannot switch back to Gesetzliche, but I also read that if you have been insured for more than 2 years in the last 5 years, you can go back to TK as Freiwillig. Can you please let me know if I have a chance? Thanks

  • Nirali Patel

    I m from India. I m leaving in Munich from last 3 month.i m here as family reunion type visa.My husband have work permit visa for 1 year.I m going to extent my visa. So which type of health insurance i have to take?

  • Francesco

    Hi everyone and thanks for this useful guide.
    I have a question related to my particular case. I'm 32 years old and I came to Berlin in October 2018 to start a new job and I chose TK because was the one informally suggested by my employer.
    Now I enrolled an MA at Humboldt Universitat and I still don't know what kind of part-time job I will be able to do.
    What do you suggest? Should I keep TK and pay it by myself until I find a part-time job? Or should I switch to something else?

    Thanks in advance for your reply.


  • Srinvias Akula

    There is a typo in the 3rd paragraph under the section "Switching from private to public health insurance"
    It must be "Switching from Private to Public" not the other way.

  • Oskar

    Hey, I found this site here They claim to help you with your German health insurance for free. Does anyone have experiences with them? Check24 seems to be a quite large online broker

  • Stephen

    My wife is the main income earner working for a company. So far myself, her and our son are all on her public health insurance. But I have recently started as a kleinunternehmer but earn extremely little, so far I'd say under 2000 per year. By reading the article, can I assume that can still be insured under my wife's public health insurance(and not pay 190 per month)??

  • Sthandiwe Kanyile

    I am South African, looking to move to Germany for my PhD research. I'm 25 and required to have German health insurance for my visa, can I get this while in South Africa?

  • David

    What would be the health insurance options acceptable to get a temporary resident Visa for someone that is moving to Berlin for a two years study program at Potsdam University and it is 59 years old? Danke!

  • Hayk

    Planing to relocate with family members: mother and wife for working in Escborn. Recentely got some tips that for parents cannot have public insurance and I have to take only private one because German rule have some restriction in such a cases.
    I am non EU, I am Armenian.

    Thanks in advance

  • Lindsay

    What if you are employed making less that 60 750 euro/year but your spouse has Private Insurance. Can you join your spouse's private plan even though you are below the salary requirement?

  • Jenny

    What happens if you are unable to work, as in the case of being disabled or homeless? Do you get public insurance? How will you pay for it?

  • Mikhail

    This is a good article, but it misses one critical aspect of private health insurance. The main thing is that PKV is financed by you and it has a savings effect. When you pay it being younger your insurance actually accumulates your contributions in their fonds and they will those money to sponsor the service when you're old and very much need it. The private insurance companies accrued already ridiculous amount of money. So they won't charge more and more the whole your life, it's a myth, after some age (let's say 70) the payment stabilizes and they can even start charge less, because hey, you have not so many years ahead anymore. So it won't be definitely 1500 euros per month. You'll pay this amount maybe if you started to contribute at 50 or later! I might be wrong in exact numbers, but you should get the principle.

    For the public insurance the picture is a bit different. Of course, it will get cheap when you're retired. But it's a distributive system. Your hefty medical bills will be sponsored by high-paying young and healthy workers. And the biggest issue with that is the ageing population. There will be more and more retired people and even less young workers. By now researchers predict, that in order to make those ends meet by 2050 the required contribution to the public insurance will rise from current 15% to 25-30%. Here you should ask yourself, what will happen if well-earning young workers of the future decide that those high contributions are not worth it and leave the public system en masse... Probably they will just start to cut coverage of public insurance (it happens already), or doctors become more and more reluctant to handle publicly insured patients (it happens already). Or maybe nothing happens! Maybe Germany will always be able to attract enough young skilled immigrants to pay increasingly high taxes. Who knows... I wouldn't be so sure saying that public health insurance is always the safest option, at least long-term. I myself is very concerned about it.

  • Alejandro

    Nice, that this kind of infos is in english, but sorry, some points are wrong!
    If you loose your job then you will switch automatically to Pflichtversicherung, if you are younger 55. You mentioned the GKV is cheap, when you retire. Yeah, but how is the coverage. Hoy much of your own pocket do you have to pay in case you are sick?
    If you are in the PKV and lit save the delta to the GKV, you can finance the higher costs of your health insurance and deduct it from the taxes.
    By the way: if you get Grundsicherung im Alter abd you have a PKV, the government will pay for it. Then there are Rentertarife....