Germany’s public healthcare system dates all the way back to the 19th century, and if you think “Hey, that sounds kind of old”, you’d be right – it’s actually the oldest system of its kind in Europe. Since the 1880s healthcare has changed and evolved with the times, and in its modern incarnation (the Gesetzliche Krankenversicherun, or GKV) isn’t that different from its contemporaries in the rest of Europe. If you’re a citizen who earns under €4,800, then 14.6% shared between you and your employer is automatically withheld and paid to a non-profit organization called a Krankenkassen as a form of social security. If you earn less than €850 then your employer pays the whole amount, meaning that you won’t lose that 7.3% of your gross income in order to be insured. GKV is mandatory for employees, but at the same time is inexpensive – consider it the “basic” package, covering primary care, hospital care and certain dental procedures. Other sources of treatment like glasses, dental implants on any sorts of private treatments are not covered. While it’s not possible to be registered with GKV unless you’re employed by a German company, once you’re registered all members of your household (wife/husband, children, annoying mother-in-law) can all enjoy the same benefits at no extra cost.
But let’s imagine that this peasant public insurance isn’t for you. No, you’re earning a lot more money (or, well, at least more than €4,800 a month), or maybe you’re an artist, freelancer, part-time worker or anyone who doesn’t qualify for the GKV. In that case no worries, the Private Krankenversicherung (or PKV) is for you. It covers a lot more potential problems than the GKV, but of course, the downside is that it’s paid separately from your salary (up to about €300 per month, depending on your insurance company and plan). The benefit of having a PKV in Germany as opposed to other countries, however, is that if you qualify for it you can opt out of the GKV, meaning that you get that 7.3% of your salary that’s typically reserved for insurance back.
If you’re not employed by a company and thus qualifying for a GKV, then doing some research on the PKV might be in your best interest. Though if you’re a citizen of an EU nation and only in Germany temporarily (under 3 months), you could be eligible for free health care as long as you’ve got an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), though this solution still incurs some costs and isn’t ideal if you live in the country for longer than a few months. If you’re planning on becoming a German citizen, then a GKV or PKV might be a fantastic first step!