Medical Insurance Information for Germans Moving Abroad
German citizens are highly educated and slightly older than the average international expatriate. They are using their skills, degrees, and work experience to their advantage when they move abroad. 59% of German expatriates have a Masters degree or higher. And an incredible 93% learn the language of their new country. That is an incredible advantage for them – and their new host country. Being an international citizen is a repeat experience for many Germans. 78% have lived in at least one foreign country before settling into their new residence. About 40% living in their new country for 10 years or more. With such a dedicated approach to experiencing the expat life, Germans living abroad know that settling in is important. They are eager to adjust to their new country, pick up the language, and learn what to expect when it comes to health insurance.
Does Your German Health Plan Cover You Abroad?
Like most countries, health insurance coverage in Germany is based upon residency. The system does not cover you when you move abroad. There is one exception, however. German citizens who sign up for the free European Health Insurance Card or EHIC can enjoy medical services in other participating European countries. Under the scheme, a German citizen in France or Ireland will receive the same standards of service and the same associated costs as a local resident would.
Read: German Healthcare System
What About Anwartschaftsversicherung (AWV)
Through the AWV program you secure certain contract rights relating to your current health insurance plan. If you join before leaving Germany and return at a later date, the insured can easily return to their current private insurance on favorable terms – without renewed health checks and waiting periods.
- It is not a health insurance plan
- Your insurance company will be obliged to insure you (even if your are seriously ill) when you return home
- Your premium will not be higher if you are sick or injured – rates are guaranteed to be the same,
If You Are Enrolled in the German State Health Insurance Plan
You will be able to enroll back on the state system when you return to Germany. The AWV in the state system costs about 50€/month.
If You Have a Private Health Insurance Plan
In this case, you can chose between either the “Small AWV” or the “Big AWV”.
Small AWV (Kleine Anwartschaftsversicherung)
This program will ensure that you will be taken back into the private insurance at your return to Germany. No matter what happens to you and how ill you are. The rates charged will be the equivalent of others your age. There will not be a surcharge if you are sick. This cost about 5% of your current premium.
Big AWV (Große Anwartschaftsversichrung):
Big AWV includes the benefits of the Small AWV as described above. However, it freezes the premiums based on the age when you left Germany. When you return home, your premium will be lower than others your same age. The cost of this will be in the range of 30-40% of your current premium.
Adjusting To Differences In Care
The German healthcare system has exceptionally high standards. It also puts a strong emphasis on choice. As such, the quality of care in most other countries, as well as the limited flexibility available to patients, can come as quite a shock. Many services which Germans once enjoyed for free or at a very reasonable low cost are now out of pocket expenses. These might include prescriptions, diagnostic tests, and even ambulance rides.
Understanding How Different Health Insurance Plans Are Funded in Germany
In Germany, when you sign up for the public health insurance through a “Krankenkasse” unit, the rates are based on your income. There may even be special incentives to choose a particular unit, like offering no-claims bonuses. This is a rarity among developed countries. Not only is mandatory enrollment with a particular medical unit and doctor unusual, but there are never bonuses to do so.
As well, not all international medical costs are based on income. Some systems are funded through general taxation or health-specific taxes. Others are funded primarily by employers and the co-payment fees of those who actually use the medical system frequently. It is safe to say that Germany’s “Kranenkasse” system is unlike any other. Depending on where German expats relocate to, they will find their new system either streamlined and simple or inefficient and chaotic.
In Germany, opting out of the public system and for private health insurance is only available to those with a high income. Residents whose income is greater than €57.600 per year, or €4.800 per month, have this choice. In other countries, opting out of the public health plan is not tied to income. As such, German expats at any income level can opt for a private plan, which would cover all the services they are used to enjoying at home.
The Challenges of Physician Care
The actual funding of the medical system is not the only thing that takes some adjusting to. Simply seeing a doctor can be a very different experience overseas. In some countries, there is no option to choose your own family doctor. You are simply assigned to a practitioner based on availability or location. In other cases, family doctors are a rarity and healthcare is administered primarily through hospitals. In these cases, the patient is primarily responsible for keeping track of their own records to bring to each appointment.
Buying Private Global Insurance While Living Abroad
In Germany, there are ample options for self-employed people to participate in the public health system at the same economical rate as those in traditional employment. This is not the case in most other countries. Expats not involved in traditional employment may not be eligible for medical insurance coverage. Or, if they are, they might have to pay the equivalent of both their portion of the fees and that which an employer would normally pay.
Buying private global insurance while living abroad is a competitively priced option, with far more support and fewer headaches. And, as an added bonus, it means that Germans living abroad can access services through private facilities. Very few countries have public hospitals and clinics which operate at the same high standards which Germany enjoys. Carrying a private health plan abroad means that German expats enjoy private, comfortable, multi-lingual services with greatly reduced wait times.
Best Insurance Plans for Germans Living Abroad
- The flexibility to tailor a plan to suit your individual needs
- Access to Cigna Global’s network of trusted hospitals, clinics, and doctors
- The convenience and confidence of 24/7/365 customer service
- Fortune 100 company with more than 800,000 expatriate members worldwide
- Access to Annual Health Exams & Medications
- Talk to global member support 24/7/365
Best Health Insurance for Germans Living in the US
For Germans working or living in the USA, a great option for coverage is the GeoBlue Xplorer health insurance plan. The Xplorer plan provides access to the highly regarded Blue Cross/Blue Shield network of hospitals and doctors in the USA along with excellent customer service and benefits.
- Premium Benefits, Coverage and Service
- Define your deductible and prescription benefits
- For Foreigners in the US or US Citizens Abroad
The German government provides comprehensive online information about their embassies and consulates around the world but lacks strong resources for Germans moving abroad or returning back home.
Alternative Medicine for Germans Living Abroad
Alternative medicine is very popular in Germany. However, few developed countries embrace alternative practices within their daily health practices quite like Germany. As such, Germans living abroad might be surprised that homeopathy, naturopathy, and chiropractic services are not included in health coverage, even private medical insurance. In fact, in some countries, these are not considered credible health services. Or, when they are, a physician’s referral is needed in order to make an appointment.
Time Abroad and Planning to Return Home
Returning home, former German expats need to reapply for health care insurance. Their return does not mean that they will automatically be re-enrolled and the have to fill out all the usual paperwork.
Returning expats might find it difficult to get re-established in many ways. For instance, obtaining a new apartment lease might require a credit check. However, the organization which issues credit reports, Schufa, requires you to have a residential address before they can issue their report. You can be stuck in a circular problem, as you try to get the forms needed to get an apartment! Expats are rightly frustrated. Some workarounds include providing your former address abroad and having your mail forwarded or using the address of a parent or closest friend.
Fun Fact – Where Germans Are Living Abroad
Here is a list of the top 10 countries Germans immigrate to.
- United States of America
- United Kingdom