Health insurance during your studies

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There is a general duty to be insured. All students under the age of 30 who are registered at a German university are obliged to be insured (this includes health as well as nursing care insurance). This means that you can only register with your university when you show proof of insurance! A travel health insurance is not sufficient for studying in Germany!

Is my home country’s statutory health insurance sufficient?

Students from non-EU countries:

  • Germany has social security treaties with a number of countries outside the EU. Under these treaties, insurances from the relevant country will be recognised in Germany. However, these are usually not sufficient to provide health insurance cover in Germany. Here you can find a list of existing treaties.
  • Even if there is a social security treaty, insurance cover is only given if a German health insurance formally recognises this as sufficient.

Tip: In any case, before you come here, check what treatment you are entitled to in Germany – not all of the usual costs are covered. Therefore it is not advantageous to maintain your home country insurance. Think carefully which option is better for you.

Students from EU countries, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland (EU and EEA):

  • In principle, students from these countries are covered by their home country insurance – but coverage must formally be recognised by a German health insurance.
  • As a rule, you will need an EHIC card (European Health Insurance Card) or the form “E128/E111“ from your home country. You have to show this upon registering at the university.
  • You can apply for an EHIC card with your health insurance.
  • Caution: Not all foreign insurances cover all the costs of medical treatment in Germany. Sometimes you have to bear additional costs.
  • Tip: Enquire with your insurance back home, so you know what is covered and what isn’t, before you come to Germany.

Health insurance in Germany

There are two types of health insurance in Germany: statutory health insurance (in German Gesetzliche Krankenversicherungen (GKV) and private health insurance (Private Krankenversicherungen (PKV)). In general, statutory health insurance is more advantageous for students than private health insurance.

Statutory health insurance (GKV)

  • Students pay around €80/month for health insurance (incl. nursing care insurance).
  • As a rule, this amount applies to students up to the age of 30 or to their 14th semester of studies in their chosen subject, respectively.
  • You can take out insurance cover with any of the German statutory health insurers. Insurers differ in what they cover and what they focus on. You can check out an comparative overview here.
  • You will receive an insurance card which you have to show at every visit to the doctor.
  • For taking out health insurance, you will need:
    - Passport or ID
    - A confirmation by the city of Frankfurt that you have registered your domicile
    - Proof of your preliminary registration with the university
    - A German bank account or an IBAN number
    - A passport photo (important!)
  • Some statutory insurers allow students who turn 30 during their studies in Germany, or who study for more than 14 semesters in their chosen subject, to continue their insurance at a higher fee. In exceptional cases, the cheaper tariff may still be available. You can get detailed information on this from the individual insurers.
  • Students who are older than 30 when they begin their studies must take out private health insurance.
  • If you are privately insured when you begin your studies, you have 3 months to change to a statutory insurer. If you apply for this switch any time later, your application will be refused and you have to remain privately insured.
  • Family insurance (possible only if your parents are or your spouse is insured with a statutory insurer in Germany): Up to the age of 25, students can join their parents’ / spouse’s statutory health insurance at no cost, if the student’s regular total income per month does not exceed €415 (2016 figures) or, in the case of a mini job, €450.

Private health insurance (PKV)

  • Until you turn 30 or until your 14th semester in your chosen subject, whichever occurs first, as a student you can only get private health insurance in exceptional cases. You have to apply for an exemption from statutory health insurance with one of the statutory insurers (e.g. AOK, DAK, BEK, TK etc).
  • If you are privately insured, you usually pay the doctor’s visits, treatment and medication yourself and then send the bill to the insurer for reimbursement.
  • The scope of service offered by a private insurer must be at least equivalent to that of a statutory insurer for duration of the time you are obliged to be insured (Vollversicherung).
  • Note: If you choose a private health insurer, you can switch to a statutory insurer during your studies only in exceptional cases!
  • Private health insurance in your home country (not travel insurance!): You can find out whether this is recognised in Germany. If that is the case, you need a confirmation that you are exempt from the obligation to get statutory insurance in order to register with the university. Please note that a travel insurance is not considered equal to a private health insurance!
  • Once you are no longer obliged to be insured as a student you may be able to take advantage of special tariffs offered by private insurers, which may be cheaper than a statutory health insurance but cover only the absolutely necessary treatment whenever you have to go to hospital or have an operation, when you have a toothache etc.

Please note: If you want to take out health insurance in Germany, whether statutory or private, this is generally only possible once you have an address in Germany and a German (or European) bank account. Most students take out an insurance for their time of studies shortly after they arrive in Germany.

Special cases

Health insurance while you are preparing for your studies or are attending the Studienkolleg (preparatory college)

If you attend a language course in order to prepare for your studies, you cannot get statutory health insurance, as you are not obliged to take out health insurance.

You can only take out a private health insurance; the scope of services does not need to reach the same level as that of a statutory health insurance. It is possible to take out the insurance for a limited time (which is normally not possible for students), in which case the health insurance must cover a minimum amount of €30,000.

Exception: If you have a sideline job and earn more than €450, you have to take out statutory health insurance and you will be insured as an employee (not as a student!), which means higehr premiums.

If you only attend the Studienkolleg (preparatory college) or a language course, you must take out a full or partial private health insurance. Once you have finished the language course, if you are younger than 30 years, you can switch to statutory health insurance for the duration of your studies. Attendees of the Studienkolleg Frankfurt must be privately insured.

Futher information about health insurance while you prepare for your studies.

Health insurance and jobs during your studies

In general, students can take on a mini job with a regular income of no more than €450 per month. They are allowed to have a higher-earning job for a short period of time (maximum 3 months or 70 working days, respectively), or for longer during the semester break. They continue to be insured as a student if, during the lecture period, they work no more than 20 hours per week (as of 21 hours per week, you must be insured as an employee). Check with your health insurance if you have any questions.

If you exceed these limits, you have to be insured as an employee. The premiums vary among the different insurers. The standard contribution rate for health insurance is 14,6% of your income, of which your employer pays half. If you are an “employee“, some health insurances charge an extra premium. This is the only area where statutory health insurances have different premiums. Health insurance as an employee also comprises nursing care insurance, unemployment insurance and pension insurance.

Health insurance during internships

During a mandatory internship related to your studies, you continue your health insurance as a student. If you do a voluntary internship, the same rules apply as when you take a job (see special 2). However, if you regularly work more than 20 hours per week during your internship and this goes on uninterrupted for more than three months, you are considered an employee and have to pay full premiums for the statutory health insurance. When in doubt, check with your insurer. Internships before and after your studies are considered vocational training and are not covered by student health insurance. In the case of an unpaid internships, interns have to take out their own health insurance.

Health insurance during doctoral studies

In general, international doctoral students in Germany can only take out private health insurance.

However: If, prior to your doctoral studies, you had statutory health insurance in Germany or a EU member state, it is generally possible to continue your statutory health insurance during your doctorate studies – you can choose between statutory and private health insurance.

If, prior to your doctoral studies, you have never been insured in Germany or the EU, you may only take out a private health insurance, provided that you do not have a job that pays more than €450/month – otherwise you must be insured as an employee. In that case, it is not necessary to get an exemption from the duty to get statutory health insurance.

If you have a scholarship for your doctoral studies, whether from a German or a foreign scholarship provider, and you have a residence permit for 12 months, you have to pay health and nursing care insurance premiums with your scholarship money. The premiums depend on the amount of your scholarship. If your scholarship is exempt from income tax pursuant to § 3 of the German Income Tax Act, you are married, and your spouse has statutory health insurance cover, it is usually possible to get family insurance (at no cost for the doctoral student).

Insured by the university and the Studentenwerk

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Students registered at the university can get a number of insurances through the university or rather, the Studentenwerk (student services). As a rule, these provide insurance cover for activities undertaken in the course of your studies, in particular if something happens to you on campus but possibly also if it happens on your way to the university.