The German healthcare system is funded by statutory contributions, divided between the individual employee and the employer.
Health insurance in Germany is compulsory for permanent residents. There doesn’t seem to be a exact definition of who a ‘permanent resident’ is and it certainly is possible to use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) at least for a while. Burying your head in the EHIC-sand long-term is not a good idea however. If you need medical care and don’t have insurance, you could be left facing hefty back payments and a fine for the time you have spent in Germany.
When starting a new job, the employee can choose a healthcare plan provided by many different insurance companies such as the industry leading TK and AOK. Whilst 90% of the population make do with the public insurance, the better-heeled/’sufficiently ambitious to get to a management position’/self-employed people can take membership in a private insurance scheme, with benefits including shorter waiting times and a greater range of treatment.
For far more detailed information, check out these websites:
As an independent worker, you will not be covered under the all-too-cosy public insurance scheme (you count as self-employed) and as such, you will be afforded the enviable opportunity to organise your own health insurance privately.
One notable exception for UK citizens, and this is certainly worth checking out, is if you have worked for 3 consecutive years in the UK before coming to Germany, the NHS will fund your public healthcare. Phone the NHS before you come to see if you are eligible.
Your options are limited to:
Private health insurance – generally expensive, medical exam necessary before entry to the scheme
International health insurance – legal in Germany, reasonably cheap if you’re young, basic/emergency cover only
With many different companies and the gazillions of plans on offer, you would do well to contact a broker who can point you in the right direction. Brokers don’t cost you a penny (at least directly) as they work on commission from the insurance company.
I can recommend John Gunn and Partner, who was very helpful in navigating the choppy waters of German health insurance and has first hand experience as an English teacher. His website also contains a lot of useful information about freelance insurance as well as other healthcare issues in Germany.