Social insurance and health

Germany provides a comprehensive system of social security to protect you if you fall ill or if you lose your job. Pension insurance will provide for you in old age or will help you if you are no longer able to work.

Young woman at the physician measuring blood pressure.

Social security contributions are laid down by law and deducted directly from your salary. If you are in Germany on a scholarship, you are usually exempt from payments – with the exception of health insurance. Everyone who lives in Germany must have health insurance to have access to Germany’s healthcare system.

Having health insurance in Germany means that you need not worry – at least financially – if you get sick: visits to the doctor, a stay in hospital and any necessary treatment will be paid for. Additionally, if you are employed, you will continue to receive sick pay.

As an employee, you will automatically be compulsorily insured in the statutory health insurance system (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung or GKV) up to certain income. The GVK also covers family members and includes long-term care insurance.

Only a few groups – e.g. self-employed workers or civil servants – have the option to take out private insurance (Private Krankenversicherung or PKV) in Germany. In private health insurance, the degree of cover is based on the agreed premium. The basic premium is roughly comparable to the cover provided by the GKV. If you have private health insurance, you will additionally need to take out private long-term care cover for family members.

Social security benefits at a glance

  • Health insurance: medical treatment, medication, hospital stays, sick pay
  • Accident insurance: costs of treatment and a pension in the event of an accident at work or work-related illness
  • Unemployment insurance: employment search services and supportive measures, unemployment benefit
  • Long-term care insurance: outpatient care, residential care, care aids
  • Pension insurance: rehabilitation services, a pension in the event of reduced earning capacity, in old age and for your surviving dependents

Good to know

Around 90 percent of people in Germany are members in the statutory health insurance. 10 percent are privately insured.

Premiums for statutory health insurance are shared equally between employers and employees.

As of 2023, there are 96 statutory health insurances (Gesetzliche Krankenkassen) in Germany. All of them are required to provide the same minimum level of care but may differ in the additional health services – e.g. alternative treatments or mental health programmes – they offer or financially support.

If you are from an EU or EEA country or from Switzerland and are in Germany only temporarily, you will be covered for any essential medical treatment by your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

In Germany, many forms of psychotherapy are covered by the statutory health insurance if the therapist has a health insurance licence and your application for therapy is approved. Specialised forms or therapy, e. g. art or body therapy, usually must be paid for privately. To find out which therapies and costs are covered, contact your insurance company.

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