- Types of insurance in Germany (All About Berlin)
- How to choose German health insurance (All About Berlin)
- Techniker Krankenkasse (TK)
Thank you to Valda for proof-reading this transcript. If you'd also like to help make our episodes more accessible, here's how you can correct our automated transcripts.
[0:09] Hello, everyone. A quick announcement: our podcast is turning one year old and we're taking the opportunity to take a little break. I am traveling right now and decided that I needed a little bit of time to completely disconnect.
[0:25] Recording remotely is also a little bit difficult, and Jae and I decided that we will just take a little bit of a break until the end of Feburary ... Febrary ... February - a difficult word to pronounce - and we'll be back then with more episodes. Feel free to send us ideas, topic ideas, suggestions for guests, or explain why you should be a guest on this show, and we are looking forward to the next year of Everyone is Moving to Berlin. Today I want to talk about insurance[s].
[1:02] A very boring but very important topic, especially in Germany. We do love our insurance[s]. I think Switzerland is even more intense when it comes to insurance[s]. I lived there for a year, and was told that most people have an incredible number of different types of insurance[s] because they really want to be sure to protect themselves against all kinds of risks. We're not as extreme in Germany, but we do have more insurance[s] than most people, although most of them are optional, not obligatory.
[1:40] Some of them are, though. So let's start with the ones that are automatically deducted from your paycheck if you are employed.
[1:50] It's different if you are self-employed, or if you don't have work, or if you are an artist and you're insured in a special insurance, that is the Künstlersozialkasse, so there's, like, exceptions to these things. But since many people ... most people are employed, and that's also the scenario that I am most familiar with, I will talk about those. But just keep in mind that if you're not employed, things might be a little bit different. So these are deducted from your paycheck, so you don't even see that money. It just goes straight from your salary into these insurance[s], which is part of the reason that your your actual net salary is so much lower than the official salary. This is something that Jae was very surprised by when he started working in Germany.
Krankenversicherung (Health Insurance)
[2:45] So the first and most important is the health insurance. There's two different types of health insurance. There's ...
[2:53] ... Public Health Insurance, Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung, and private health insurance, Private Krankenversicherung.
[3:04] The private one ... It's a weird system that we have, where everybody has to have insurance. It is ... you're legally obliged to have health insurance, even if you're not employed. There's no legal way to not be insured. I think about 1% of people in Germany aren't insured, even though this is the case, which is very dangerous. But yeah, you need health insurance. The standard is the public health insurance. It's quite good. It's good enough. You don't need private health insurance. Private health insurance will give you additional benefits. Additional ... It's a little bit of a two class system, to be honest. For example, it's really difficult to get doctors appointments, especially for specific specialty doctors or whatnot. And private health insurance will help you there, but it will also cost you a lot more money. And I think most people are fine having public health insurance. There's different providers, but they are all very similar. They're not the same - different public health insurance providers do have different. kind of, benefits or things they cover when it comes to, for example, what was I doing? Physiotherapy? No, not physiotherapy ...
[4:23] I was doing some kind of special optional thing, and my health insurance, TK, was covering,§ like half of the cost of up to three sessions per year or something. And so [for] those kind of special things, there are differences, but in broad strokes, in terms of going to the doctor, going to the hospital, getting prescription drugs, it's basically all the same. So you can look around. I am insured with TK, Techniker Krankenkasse. I think it's ... they're quite good. They have very good customer service as well, you can always call them, and they're super friendly. So I guess that would be my recommendation. If you're just moving to Germany and you don't really have a job yet ...
[5:11] ... you should still be able to join TK, or some other public health insurance. Although I've heard if you're coming for like a very limited time, then there's these special health insurance companies that you pay out of pocket, and they cover just the bare minimum of what you need to get the visa. So there's also these types of, kind of, expat or immigrant health insurance companies, but they are sometimes a little problematic because they won't cover pregnancy or things like that. So I think if you can, you should just join a public health insurance provider. And then if you're employed, that money goes straight out of your paycheck. If you're not employed, you can pay out of pocket, but you will quickly learn that it's quite a lot of money. And yeah, if you can't do this, then look around. The other things that go straight out of your paycheck ...
Rentenversicherung (Pension Scheme or Retirement Insurance)
[6:11] ... the other kind of big one that's actually a lot of money, is the Rentenversicherung, pension scheme or retirement insurance. So that's money that's put aside ... well, it's not really put aside, it goes ... This is the money that people who are currently retired, receive their pension from. And the idea is that once you retire, you will receive your pension from the people that are young and paying this insurance.
[6:40] There's a big problem there, of course, because our society is ageing, and more and more people ...
[6:47] ... use up this money because they retire, and fewer and fewer people pay into this insurance - big political challenge. But be that as it may, it's actually more money being taken out of your paycheck than even the health insurance. So that's a big part of your paycheck going into this pension scheme or retirement insurance. But there's no way around it. You are going to pay this, no matter what. Then there's the Arbeitslosenversicherung, unemployment insurance.
Arbeitslosenversicherung (Unemployment Insurance)
[7:18] That's not so much money. That's just a tiny percentage of your paycheck. But this is basically for if you lose your job, you will receive some benefits, depending on how much ... how many years you've worked and what you've earned and so on. If you've only worked a few years or never really worked, then you will just get the bare minimum of what you need to survive. If you've worked for 20 years and then you lose your job, you will receive kind of a percentage of your previous salary. And then the last one is the Pflegeversicherung, and that is long term care insurance.
Pflegeversicherung (Long-Term Care Insurance)
[7:59] So this is also a small portion of your paycheck. But basically, if you ...
[8:04] ... end up in a situation where you need to be taken care of by somebody who's working around the clock, or maybe you're in an institution where,you're being taken care of, this is the insurance specifically for that. So those things are obligatory and they're just deducted from your paycheck.
[8:26] All of the ones that are following ... so, everything else is optional. Though the first one I would like to mention is ...
Haftpflichtversicherung (Liability Insurance)
[8:34] ... is optional, but you basically really should have it. And most German ... the majority ... the majority of Germans have it, because it just makes a lot of sense and it doesn't cost you a lot. And that is the Haftpflichtversicherung ... Haftpflichtversicherung - difficult word - liability insurance. So this just means ... I mean, I always wondered why you needed that as a ... as, like, a teenager because it just basically means if you break somebody else's stuff by accident, then this insurance covers it. So if you ... I don't know ... if you grab your friend's phone to take a photo and then you drop the phone while you're using it, you broke your friend's phone and this is covered by liability insurance, although the phone example is kind of bad, because they really ... I mean, there's ... you know, there's a lot of ...
[9:25] ... fraud where people break their own phone and then try to do it through the liability insurance. So they ... you will really have to prove that you broke your friend's phone and he didn't break it themselves. But in general, if you break somebody else's stuff, that's what liability insurance is for. Why would you insure against that? And not just, you know, if that happens, you pay it for yourself? Well, it could be much more disastrous than breaking someone else's phone. Right? You could cause an accident in the street because you're crossing the street somehow, and you you fall, or you slip, or you do something stupid, or you're drunk, and you cause an accident where there's five cars involved and some people are seriously hurt and they need, special treatment afterwards. And, like, these kinds of things could run into the millions and they could financially ruin you, because you caused this accident and it was your fault, and now you have to pay for all the damage that you caused. And so, this is why it makes sense to get liability insurance, although this case is very unlikely to happen. If it would happen, it would ruin you. And good liability insurance costs you, like, €5 a month. So it just makes sense to get it.
Hundehaftpflichtversicherung (Dog Liability Insurance)
[10:40] Last episode we talked about owning a dog or getting getting a pet in Germany. And if you do have a dog - so there's this side note, tangent - you should ... you have to get a Hundehaftpflichtversicherung, a dog liability insurance. Depending on the state in Germany this is optional or not. In Berlin it is not optional. So while the regular Haftpflichtversicherung, liability insurance, is optional in all of Germany, if you live in Berlin and you have a dog, you need to get dog liability insurance by law. And then, speaking about pets, there's obviously also pet health insurance, which is completely optional. It just protects you against very high vet bills if something happens to your pet.
Tierkrankenversicherung (Pet Health Insurance)
[11:32] Next up is the Ausland .... By the way, I'm ordering this by, kind of, my personal opinion of how important these are to get.
Auslandskrankenversicherung (Travel Health Insurance)
[11:44] So I am obviously not a professional and I am ... I'm not really qualified to give advice here, but [in] this list I am more or less going through in the order that I think you should care about or think about. So the next one that I do think you should get, is an Auslandskrankenversicherung, travel health insurance. Because, while you have health insurance in Germany, this does not cover you when you're traveling abroad - or only to a very limited extent. So if you're ...
[12:18] ... insured in Germany, this health insurance will cover travels within the EU, but only, kind of, in a limited way. So if you need to go to a doctor or hospital in Spain, your German health insurance will cover this. But if you have a skiing accident and you need to go home or you want to go home, or you want to be treated in a German hospital, this kind of transport back to Germany will not be covered. So this is one reason why you would need travel health insurance. The other reason is that any country outside of the EU isn't covered at all. So if you are traveling to a non-EU country ever and you have an accident there, or you just want to go to the doctor or to the hospital, this is not covered. Travel health insurance is super cheap. It's like between €10 and €20 a year. So it's really a no-brainer. And then it covers up to however many months of traveling that you do in any country. And it's very limited, like it won't cover any any kind of preexisting condition, anything that you that you already left the country with, but anything that kind of happens or occurs while you're traveling that you need to see a doctor for, is covered. So definitely worth getting, in my opinion.
Unfallversicherung (Accident Insurance)
[13:42] The next one on the list is Unfallversicherung, accident insurance. Also something that for a very long time I didn't really get, because if you have health insurance, wouldn't that cover having an accident as well? Like, if you have an accident and they drive you to the hospital, that's covered by your health insurance. And that is true. The health insurance will cover kind of the immediate treatment after an accident, but it does not cover any long term ...
[14:16] ... things that result from that accident. So you'll go to the hospital. Fine. But then if you need a wheelchair for the rest of your life,, or physical therapy or any other kind of thing that results from this ... from this accident, that is not covered by your health insurance. And so it makes sense to have this accident insurance. It's also an insurance that is quite inexpensive, and thus, I would say a no-brainer because, yeah, you're not paying a lot of money for this. It's I don't even know it's maybe €5 a month or something like this. And it's just ... it's just good to have, in my opinion.
Hausratversicherung (Home Contents Insurance)[15:00] Now we're getting to the ones where we could really debate if they make sense, and it really depends on your personal situation. The first one is Hausratversicherung, home contents insurance. I never really used to have this, but now that I actually live in an apartment with furniture and a TV and some other stuff, my bike ...
[15:24] ... I do have this now. So basically, home contents insurance insures against any damage to whatever is in your home, including kind of, like, I don't know, the walls and stuff. If there's a flood and you need to, like, tear down all the wallpaper and remodel the whole home and stuff like that, that's all insured. And then, like, the most common case, I think, is a fire. If there's a fire and all your stuff gets destroyed, or a break in - if someone breaks into your apartment and steals everything - all that stuff is covered by home contents, insurance. Some of them cover your bike as well.
[16:05] And not only if it's, like, physically in your apartment or outside of the apartment, but sometimes bikes are also insured as part of this, when they're not in the apartment. But it's very ... like you have to be very careful in terms of the conditions because, yeah, it might or might not be included in this. And I think if you don't really have a lot of stuff, or you don't have a lot of stuff that's worth anything, then you can probably skip this one. If you do have ... I don't know ... expensive stuff, then it might make sense. The price of this insurance really depends on ...
[16:44] ... the amount of stuff, and the worth ... the value of your stuff, and where you live. I think also, kind of, the risk is included if you live on the on the ground floor. I think it's usually more expensive because a break-in is more likely, statistically speaking. Speaking of bike insurance, you can get specific bike insurance.
Fahrradversicherung (Bike Insurance)[17:04] I think it's becoming more and more popular these days with people buying more expensive bikes, all these e-bikes and stuff, those get stolen. And then, you know, I don't know, a good e-bike costs you €3000, €4,000. So people insure them. They usually come with a lot of rules. Like, you have to use a very specific lock, and you have to lock your bike to something stationary at all times, and stuff. I think it can make sense to do this, especially if you buy a very expensive bike. Personally, I have a bike that I essentially built myself, that's an old frame, very old, used frame. And it looks ... I mean, I put a lot of money into this bike, but it looks kind of crappy, to be honest. I don't think it's, kind of, the first bike that thieves would choose. And then I do have a good lock, and I do lock it to stationary places, and I never leave it outside ...
[18:04] ... overnight. If I'm going anywhere, and even at my own place, I take it into the apartment, so nobody can steal it from the backyard. And so I don't think I need ... It would break my heart if my bike was stolen. I also have an AirTag under the saddle, which ... You know, I think nowadays thieves find those immediately and look for them and take them off. But, you know, better than nothing like it might ... it might help. Who knows?
[18:35] But I've had this bike since 2012, going on ten years, and it hasn't been stolen. So knock on wood!
Rechtsschutz (Legal Expenses Insurance)[18:44] Then there's one that I actually ... I don't know, I don't think most people need this, but I recently got this, and I'm feeling really old having done this, and that is a Rechtsschutzversicherung. The translation of that, would be legal costs or legal expenses insurance. And that is, as the name implies, if you have any type of lawsuit either against you, or you are suing someone else against someone else, this insurance will cover the costs. I wonder if most people need this. I got this because I did get into a little bit of a ... let's say, discussion with a neighbor because I chose to take piano lessons. And even though I'm very careful and very quiet and stick very strictly to the hours of the ... you know, when you can make noise in Germany and stuff like that, there was a little bit of a discussion, and I just ... I had this kind of feeling in my in my belly that ...
[20:01] ... if this ever escalated and ... I don't know, the landlord would need to get involved and make a decision about who was right and who wasn't, and ... I don't know, I just thought it's probably not such a bad idea to insure and be able to afford a lawyer if I ever need one. And so I got this. The important thing here is that when you get this legal expenses insurance, you need to pick an area or several areas. And I think one of the popular ones are kind of work-related disputes. So if you need to sue or want to sue your employer, for example, this is not one area that I need to cover or that I got. So my kind of thing was very focused and small, and so it's not so expensive.
[20:58] Next up, we have car insurance, Kfz-Versicherung.
Kfz-Versicherung (Car Insurance)[21:02] This is actually obligatory if you have a car. I don't have a car so I don't have to deal with this. But yeah, if you have a car, you do need to get Kfz-Versicherung, which covers, basically, damage that you cause with your car to other people's cars or property or health.
[21:24] And then, if you want to insure your own car as well, then there's, like, Vollkaskoversicherung, which also ... if you make a mistake and you cause an accident, then this Vollkaskoversicherung will not just cover the damage you cause to the other person's car, but also your own car. But the one that's legally obligatory, is the regular one that just covers the other person's damage.
[21:54] Then we have the Berufsunfähigkeitsversicherung.
Berufsunfähigkeitsversicherung (Disability Insurance)[21:57] These words are getting more and more tricky! And that is disability insurance. As the name implies, this is for a scenario where you become disabled. It is different from the Unfallversicherung, accident insurance, because this is about loss of income, basically. So if you are a surgeon and you lose a finger, then you might not be able to be a surgeon anymore. But this was your career, this was your training, you have a very high income ... now you can't do this anymore. Yes, you can do another job, but you can't do that job anymore. And disability insurance will protect you against this case. Not something that I personally have. But depending on your job and your career, this might make sense.
Lebensversicherung (Life Insurance)[22:46] Life insurance, I think, is a type of insurance that is actually very ...
[22:53] ... I don't know if popular is the right word ... common in the US, but that I haven't heard so much from people in Germany having. [This] might be related related to my age, though, as well, because basically life insurance makes sense if you have dependents, if there are people that depend on your income - wife, husband, children. That you have a higher income, and the whole family depends on this income. And if you die, then your dependents would have a big problem because they really depend on your income. Then life insurance makes sense. That's the extent of what I know about life insurance. You probably know more about this than me.
[23:40] You need to make a decision, if that makes sense. So those are definitely not all types of insurance. You can insure against anything ...
[23:51] obviously, but those, I think, are the most common ones. I hope it was a little bit of a helpful overview if, you know, if you forgot everything that I just said because it was boring as hell, maybe just remember that there's ... that you do need health insurance, no matter what. And if you're not employed, maybe you need to take steps to figure something out. And that Haftpflichtversicherung, so, liability insurance, travel, health insurance, and maybe accident insurance, are things that you should probably look into, that won't break the bank but are kind of good safety nets.
How to Buy Insurance[24:28] Last thing I wanted to mention is: how do you buy insurance? Because you don't really buy insurance by going, like ... going to some company that you see on the TV and then just buying their insurance because you saw their ad on the TV. That's probably not the smartest way to do it. You need to, kind of, compare different companies, different plans, different prices, and find for each of these types of insurance[s] the cheapest and and best provider. One way to do this is through these websites like Verivox.de§ and CHECK24.de
[25:05] These websites, basically, have comparison engine search engines and then if you buy the insurance through them, they get a kickback. That's one way to do it. There's also apps these days. One that's very popular that sponsors a lot of podcasts - not this one - is CLARK. The thing that you need to be aware of with these apps, is that they become your insurance broker. They don't necessarily advertise this very clearly. They just, kind of, advertise that you can find insurance[s] and also upload existing insurance[s], and then have the nice overview in the app, and that's great. But they also become your insurance broker, meaning they will get a kickback of the insurance[s] that you buy through them, or even the ones that you add, kind of, later on. Like, they make their money... The app is free, but they make their money from the insurance[s] and that's fine.
[26:04] Except that maybe you already have, or you would rather have, an actual insurance broker. That is a job that exists. It's a mystery why anyone would want this job to me, honestly. But there are people ... I have an insurance broker, and he's great. He loves insurance[s]. He lives and breathes insurance[s]. It's his thing. He doesn't work for a specific insurance - that's like a different job, that's like [an] insurance salesmen or something. He's an insurance broker. Meaning he ... If I need insurance ... When I bought my my legal expense insurance, I called him up and I was like, "Hey, I have this situation. I think I want to kind of protect myself and buy it." And then he explained everything to me, went through the different options, showed me, like, five different providers and said, "Which one do you want? These are the different costs, these are the benefits." And then I bought the insurance through him. And also, if I do have a case, if I need to use one of my insurance[s], he kind of takes care of it and he gets the kickback from the insurance, and that's how he makes his money. So... I don't know ... I found this guy through a recommendation. I don't know if there's a good way to find a human being like this, but just to be aware that there is this alternative to apps and websites ...
[27:29] ... which is a real human being who does this for a living, and whom you can call if you have a question or a problem. That's it for today. Thank you for listening to this important but boring information. You guys are awesome, and we'll talk to you in a few weeks.