Health insurance in Germany, what do I need to know?

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Today, we interview Hans-Hermann Buhmann, AOK Sales Manager of East Lower Saxony. We all have many questions regarding health insurance in Germany, especially when someone has just moved into the country, that is why we thought that it could be an interesting theme for you. There is a lack of information and our guest expert will answer all our questions. Feel free to leave your comments!

  • Am I required to have health insurance in Germany even if I’m not currently employed? May I use the European health-insurance card instead?

Persons who are temporarily in another member state, such as those on holiday, and require medical treatment may go directly to a physician or hospital using the EHIC on the back of their national health-insurance card. The card is valid in all EU countries as well as some other European countries. In Germany, statutory health insurance is available for those who are employed, receiving unemployment compensation or benefits (Hartz IV) and for other groups.

Anyone who takes up new employment with compensation over 450 euro per month or draws unemployment compensation is automatically registered for health insurance by the employer or the Federal Employment Agency. In Germany, those who have statutory health insurance do not need to apply for the European health-insurance card. It is automatically printed on the back of the card.

In Lower Saxony, districts and cities with district status are as a rule responsible for health care for asylum seekers during the maximum first 15 months of their stay in German.

  • What do I need to do in order to obtain insurance? Will my future employer help me find insurance, or is that something I need to do on my own?

With a few exceptions, anyone who moves from a foreign country to Germany may be insured with a health-insurance fund. Anyone who takes up employment in Germany for the first time may choose their insurance from various health-insurance funds, such as the AOK in their place of residence or employment. The selected health-insurance fund will issue a membership certificate, which must be given to the employer within 14 days after taking up employment. If the employee dos not choose a health-insurance fund, the employer will register the employee for a health-insurance fund pending their agreement. AOK can be reached personally in Lower Saxony at over 121 locations and is happy to advise you about all matters relating to health insurance.

  • Does my health-insurance fund assume the costs for all medical treatments and medications that I need? How does this process work?

By far, the majority of all services provided by statutory health insurance is determined by law. Your first contact for medical treatment in Germany is an approved general-care physician or specialist; these are physicians who work on a contractual basis with health-insurance funds. The physician decides which measures or medications are necessary for the treatment of an illness. The physician may also initiate treatment in hospital. The health-insurance funds such as AOK Lower Saxony bear the costs for medical and dental treatment. For settlement of costs, the health-insurance card must be presented at the physician so these costs can be settled directly with the health-insurance fund.

The physician will issue a prescription for any medications you may need. This prescription may be filled at a pharmacy, and you will receive your prescribed medication there. AOK Lower Saxony bears the majority of the costs, as is the case with other health-insurance funds.

  • What medical treatment is generally not covered by my health insurance?

As a rule, all necessary medical treatment is covered by health insurance. The treatments methods and medications are tested and evaluated for their effectiveness before they are included in the catalogue of services provided by statutory health insurance. The costs for treatment methods or medications whose effectiveness has not been clearly scientifically proven, for example, are not covered. Your physician can provide you with information about costs that are covered.

  • Does my health insurance cover medical costs when I’m in a foreign country or in my home country?

In this case, the European health-insurance card mentioned above may be used. The card is valid in all EU countries as well as some other European countries. Before you travel abroad, you should consult your health-insurance fund about the actual scope of services covered. Special health insurance for travel abroad is also beneficial. Through its cooperation partner “Alte Oldenburger”, AOK Lower Saxony offers affordable supplementary insurance for travel abroad with its AOK Private Rates. You can find more infomation at

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