What international students should know about health insurance in Germany

What international students should know about health insurance in Germany

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Coming to Germany to study? Mirja Lundehn, the lead health insurance advisor at KLforExpats, explores everything international students need to know about choosing health insurance in Germany.

With top-ranked universities and excellent job opportunities, it’s no wonder Germany’s higher education system has an outstanding reputation among the international community. If you want to study in Germany, whether as an undergraduate, master's, or PhD student, one of the first things you’ll need to arrange as part of your move to Germany and university admission process is health insurance. 

Do you need health insurance as an international student in Germany?

Health insurance is mandatory by law for all residents in Germany. If you plan to live and study in Germany, you must obtain health insurance. You’ll need to prove that you have health insurance to finalise your university enrolment, so it should be one of the first things that you arrange upon arrival.

The only students that are exempt from the need to obtain German health insurance are those from EU member countries as well as the following countries: 

  • Iceland
  • Norway
  • Serbia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Morocco
  • Switzerland
  • Tunisia
  • Israel
  • Turkey
  • Montenegro
  • North Macedonia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina

Individuals from these countries may use their home country's health insurance while in Germany. However, it’s a good idea to contact your home country provider to discuss what they will cover in Germany. It should also be noted that if you start a student job in Germany, you will be required to switch to German health insurance, regardless of which country you're from. 

What kind of health insurance is available for foreign students in Germany?

The German healthcare system is divided into two schemes: private and public (statutory). Each scheme has its own characteristics that determine its suitability for each individual. These should be considered carefully as there are many factors to consider beyond just the price. 

Cheap plans might be tempting at first glance, but many of them have downsides that could cause you headaches in the future. That’s why, if you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to speak to an independent advisor for free.

For international students looking to study in Germany, these are the key facts you need to know when deciding whether public or private health insurance is the best option for you.

Public health insurance for students

Students under the age of 30 in an undergraduate or master's program are obliged to join Germany’s public health insurance scheme unless - as mentioned above - they can provide proof of their statutory European health insurance. 

If you wish to be privately insured, you must proactively opt out of the public scheme by requesting an exemption (Befreiung) from the public health insurance company within three months, or risk being required to pay for both public and private health insurance at the same time. Note, however, that once you have opted out of the public scheme, you will be unable to reverse the decision later in your studies. 

Public health insurance is highly regarded in Germany and gives you access to all necessary medical services including GP appointments, maternity care, inpatient and outpatient treatment, and basic dental coverage. 

Students can choose from several public health providers and benefit from reduced contributions of around 120 to around 135 euros per month, which includes contributions to Germany’s obligatory long-term nurse care insurance (Pflegepflichtversicherung). Your exact contribution level will depend on your age and whether you have children. Public insurance may not be as cheap as travel insurance, but it is the safest option to avoid challenges in the future if you need to make a quick decision.

Private health insurance for students

In some instances, international students may not be obliged to take out public health insurance. This includes students who are:

  • Above the age of 30
  • Undergoing post-graduate studies
  • Self-employed
  • Scholarship holders who do not hold an employment contract

If any of these criteria apply to you, you are not subject to “compulsory insurance”. However, you can choose to voluntarily contribute to a public insurance scheme, although you will not benefit from the discounted contributions given to students who are compulsorily insured. Alternatively, you can take out a private health insurance policy. 

Costs for comprehensive private health insurance for students in Germany range from between 100 to 300 euros per month, depending on a variety of factors including your age and medical history, as well as the level of coverage you choose. 

Comprehensive private health insurance can be attractive as it offers additional services such as advanced dental treatments, preferential treatments and faster appointments, as well as other benefits that can be tailored to an individual’s unique needs. It’s important to be mindful that to be privately insured, you will need to undergo a medical assessment. 

Travel health insurance (a trap to avoid!)

It might seem like there is also a third option: a quick Google search will lead you to many private health insurance options for students at bargain prices as low as 35 euros per month, but beware that most of these options are usually forms of travel insurance. 

Although universities will accept these insurers for enrolment purposes, they might create problems for you down the track. If, for example, you intend to stay in Germany after your studies and you wish to obtain a job-seeking visa to look for employment, travel health insurance will not be accepted. Further, because you didn’t apply for the appropriate public or private health insurance upon arrival in Germany, it may be impossible to resolve the situation without having to back pay into one of the schemes for your whole stay in Germany. 

Travel health insurance coverage is also very basic and often doesn't include many of the benefits of standard public health insurance in Germany such as pregnancy, birth delivery and pre-existing conditions.

What deadlines and other factors should you be aware of?

When choosing a policy, keep an eye out for these things:

Avoid nasty surprises

Double-check that the obligatory long-term nurse care insurance (Pflegepflichtversicherung) is included in the offer you sign. It is mandatory and usually costs around 30 euros per month, on top of the standard contribution. All students need to pay the Pflegepflichtversicherung unless their parents are members of the German statutory scheme.

Binding decisions

Upon the start of your first semester, you will by default become a mandatory member of the public health insurance scheme by law. If you wish to be privately insured but miss this three-month deadline to request an exemption and buy private health insurance regardless, this can cause a lot of difficulties such as back payments in the future.  

How do students apply for health insurance in Germany?

To obtain health insurance in Germany as a student, you can simply contact the health insurance providers directly to take out a policy. Alternatively, you could consider working with an independent broker, as they can provide unbiased advice and answer any questions you might have before you make your decision. The good thing is that, in Germany, a consultation with a broker won’t cost you a cent! 

Once you apply for your health insurance, you will receive a certificate of insurance that you can use for things like residence permit applications and to enrol with your university. 

KLforExpats is a leading health insurance advisory, specialising in health insurance for internationals arriving in Germany. Their service is fast, English-speaking and free! So, if you’d like help obtaining health insurance as an international student, get in touch with KLforExpats. If you prefer to chat over WhatsApp, you can message the KLforExpats team directly to get a speedier response!

Mirja Lundehn


Mirja Lundehn

Mirja Lundehn is the co-founder of KLforExpats, an English-speaking, independent insurance brokerage with 20+ years experience in the industry. KLforExpats provides health insurance advice and support to internationals in Germany...

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