It is mandatory to have German health insurance for foreigners wanting to obtain residency in Germany. Your health insurance policy must be provided by an Insurer that is registered as approved by the German Financial Services Supervisory Authority (Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht) – in short BaFin.
The list of approved insurers with BaFin compromises only German and EU (EEA) insurers – so providers such as America’s Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) are not listed as approved, despite the fact that they say their clients are covered worldwide. Existing policies with BCBS may cover their customers if they are traveling abroad while residing in the US, but this is not an acceptable German health insurance for foreigners living in the country.
There are basically 2 types of insurance in Germany – public and private. Although there are a few exceptions, public insurance is only available to employees and private insurance is only available to freelancers (self-employed). Laws and rules are different for public and private Insurance, and these can be extremely confusing and open to interpretation. Because of this, there is much speculation, misinformation and/or misinterpretation of the numerous laws and rules in respect to health insurance in Germany.
How to get the right level of German health insurance for foreigners
Here are some tips for ensuring that you get the right coverage for you and your family while ensuring that your policy is acceptable for your residency requirement:
- Plan in advance. Finalizing a health insurance policy is not always simple and can take 2-3 weeks. Make this a priority and move this item to the top of your to-do list!
- Use a professional Insurance Broker – one that is client-focused, rather than focused on commission or the product line of a specific insurance company.
- Dealing directly with insurance companies will not provide a range of options because insurance companies will not advise on any other products but their own. Insurance brokers will advise across a number of insurance providers. Some insurance brokers, such as Spectrum International, will advise on German Public and German Private Insurance as well as International and Travel Insurance (if appropriate). Insurance brokers will also arrange switches from one to another as required. Note that brokers such as Spectrum do not charge for their services, and the rates used are the same as the direct rates from the insurance companies.
- Well-intentioned as it may be, advice from friends and colleagues may not always be appropriate for each individual’s circumstances – and their advice may also not be up-to-date in respect of the law, which constantly changes. Similarly, the Internet is full of information, and this is invariably generalized. For individual advice, prospective clients are urged to consult a professional Broker. Professional insurance brokers are aware of recent and proposed changes that may directly affect individuals.
- Lawyers may be familiar with some laws regarding insurance, but more often than not, it is not their specialty and they are generally not permitted to provide insurance advice for individuals and their specific life situations. Lawyers should only refer their clients to a qualified Insurance Broker, rather than provide advice on specific policies. Experienced and accredited brokers such as Spectrum International works with various lawyers to ensure their information and their clients are kept current on recent changes that may impact them and their residency status.
Final Note: Mandatory Pension Schemes
Pension plans are another complex issue in Germany. Some freelancers may have never been subject to compulsory state pension contributions in their home country, however, they will be as a resident in Germany. Most self-employed individuals will be required to contribute from their first day of residency in Germany. Failure to comply would result in a significant back-payment liability when (and not IF) this is discovered.
Seasoned and experienced brokers such as Spectrum International are also available to help you understand your pension requirements as well as your insurance obligations and options that align with your chosen path to residency.
You can read about legal tips for expats on our blog.