Ottonova is a private health insurance startup in Germany.

They are a very tempting option for expat freelancers who move to Germany. They have English customer support, and their insurance works when applying for a German visa. You do everything through their app, like with N26. Like you, I took interest in Ottonova. Below is what I have learned from my research.

This article was not suggested, written or approved by Ottonova. I have done independent research, and these opinions are my own.

It's private health insurance

Ottonova is a private health insurer. Before you choose public or private health insurance, you should understand the German health insurance system.

Private has its benefits

When you have private health insurance, it's easier to get doctor appointments, and you sometimes get better treatment. Doctors make more money with privately insured patients, so they have higher priority. It's a lot easier to find a therapist that accepts private health insurance.

Private health insurance sometimes covers more things. For example, Ottonova covers glasses, but public health insurance doesn't1.

If you make a lot of money, if you don't have children, or if you don't want to live in Germany forever, private health insurance is often much cheaper than public health insurance. As you get older, it gets much more expensive.

Private is not for everyone

Not everyone can have private health insurance. Employees who make less than 64350€ per year can only choose public health insurance. They can't choose Ottonova. Freelancers, people with minijobs and employees who make over 64350€ per year can choose private health insurance. They can choose Ottonova.

If you moved to Germany as a freelancer, you might be forced to choose private health insurance. Public health insurers often refuse to cover freelancers who never had health insurance in Germany.

Private is not always cheaper

The price of public health insurance depends on your income. The price of private health insurance depends on your health condition. If you are young and have a high income, private health insurance looks cheaper.

However, private health insurance will get more expensive every year. If you have children, they won't be covered for free. If you lose your job or retire, it will not get cheaper. If private insurance becomes too expensive, you can't easily switch to public insurance.

Read our comparison of public and private health insurance to understand if private health insurance is a good option for you.

It has English customer support

Ottonova offers 24/7 English customer support. If you don't speak German, it can be very useful. Public health insurers like Techniker Krankenkasse and AOK unofficially have English customer support.

Ottonova is a 100% digital company. There are no Ottonova offices to go to. This is not really a problem. With other health insurers, you do everything online or over the phone anyway.

It works for the German visa application

When you apply for a German residence permit, you must get valid health insurance in Germany. Ottonova's health insurance is accepted by the German embassies, consulates and Ausländerbehörde. Health insurance from Ottonova is valid when applying for the German freelance visa or the German work visa1. It says so on Ottonova's home page.

Related guide: Which health insurance do you need for your German visa?

It's a very young startup

Ottonova is in business since June 20171, 2. In 2018, Ottonova had less than 500 members1. They want to have 5000 members by the end of 20191. By comparison, Techniker Krankenkasse has over 10 million members. In 2010, a private health insurer with 25 000 members almost went bankrupt because of two sick patients1. The story of City BKK's bankruptcy shows what happens when a private health insurer goes bankrupt.

Ottonova is not a profitable company yetin 2019. In 2018, it recorded a loss of 1.5 million euros1, 2. However, they received 60 million euros in funding in 20191, and they are backed by Debeka, a much larger insurance company1.

It's not the cheapest option

Ottonova is not the cheapest private health insurance. This is not a bad thing, but if you want to pay as little as possible, there are other options. Use Tarifcheck to compare the price of different health insurers. Health insurance brokers will also help you pick the right health insurance for free.

Should you go with Ottonova?

This depends on you. Ottonova offers service in English and a well-designed app, but letting a startup handle your health insurance is risky. You must also ask yourself if private health insurance is the best choice.

If you just want insurance for your German visa application, then Ottonova will work fine.

You can get a quote from Ottonova, and decide if it works for you. You can also ask a health insurance broker. Their help is free; they get paid by the insurance companies when you choose one.

You can also use tools like Tarifcheck to compare private health insurance prices. You enter some information about you, and they show you insurance options from different companies.