More and more expats are moving over to Germany, intending to finance their lifes with a freelance job. If you are considering the same, there are specific requirements to adhere to when it comes to the appropriate health insurance for freelancers in Germany.

According to the German statistical office, there are still well over 144.000 people in Germany roaming around without health insurance...native German or otherwise. Getting German healthcare is a legal obligation if you want to stay in German. There are only very, very few exceptions to this rule. The moment where you need German insurance in reality, i.e., when financial covering of medical treatments might come in handy, the consequences of not adhering to this legal requirements will become expensive. This is especially tough for our dear residents with UK nationality. You will need to apply for a residence title within the foreseeable future and this will shed light on your status of insurance.

Who is in the risk group: Freelancer with EHIC card

Basically, should you come from outside of the EU you will not be able to obtain your Residency Title without proof of sufficient health insurance. However, those of you who come here as Freelancers and Self-Employed people from the EU, who don’t need a Residency Title, more often than not fall into the category of non-insurance. The main reason is because many people are under the impression that the EHIC card (European Health Insurance Card) covers you fully abroad. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. It only provides emergency coverage and that for only a period of about 3 months. Even though you may have an EHIC card, it still means that you need to comply to the law in Germany (VVG §193(3)) – that means you have to insure yourself for the case of sickness.

Nobody will chase you but yourself!

Once you arrive in Germany, you have a 30 day grace period, which starts from the day you register at your address in Germany (VVG §193(3)) to contract a sufficient healthcare insurance. Whilst for an employee the employer will make sure you have contracted an insurance, since he otherwise cannot pay any salary, as a freelancer, this is entirely your own responsibility.

Backcharges & Penalties

Another thing that understandably puts freelancers off getting themselves a proper sufficient health insurance here in Germany, are the so called “back charges” which apply if you happen to detect that you should have contracted healthcare insurance long time ago. The longer you wait with signing up for German healthcare, the more painful the consequences will be.

The calculation of back charges is legally defined – let us explain by way of a common example:

Let’s take a normal 35 year old male or female, who has lived in Germany without health insurance for 18 Months, and for some reason he/she now needs to get him/herself health insurance. Now this might be because he/she has gotten himself an employed job and has HAD to get insurance, or that he/she has heard about the back charges, and decided to do the right thing and comply with the law.

Let us just say that, we talk about a freelancer and that the insurance (let us take private insurance as our example) costs €350per month. So, once the application has been sent in, the insurance company will want to know, when he arrived and first registered in Germany, and they confirm that the applicant has lived here for 18 months. The back charges will be calculated thus:

  • The initial 30 days after registration are treated as grace period and will not be considered for the back charges.
  • For the following 6 months of non-insurance the applicant will be charged the full monthly premium of €350. That’s €2100 already.
  • Then, for every missing month thereafter, the back charges will be calculated at 1/6 of a monthly premium x 11 months. €58.33 x 11 = €641.67.
  • The total amount of back charges that will be levied against the applicant will be €2100 + €641.67 = €2741.67...

Premium amounts for freelancers

Common polices work with fixed steps of monthly premiums, ie., 0 EUR up to an average monthly income of roughly 450 EUR conditional to an existing family insurance, 150 EUR for an average income between 450 - 900 EUR, 250 EUR for the next 500 EUR etc. The premiums depend on the individual insurer and slightly differ. some insurers also offer varying premiums being based on your exact monthly income. Especially, in case your monthly income hugely varies, such option should be inquired.

The backcharges can be issued because since a big regulation change, which took place in Jan 2009, insurers must keep you insured - whether or not you pay your premiums. Before Jan 2009, if you had health insurance and fell into arrears with your monthly premium, the insurance companies had the right to just cancel your insurance for non-payment. Ever since Jan 2009, that can’t happen anymore. If you fall behind on your monthly premiums, the insurance companies can no longer cancel your contract. You remain insured (albeit for emergencies only).