In the beginning, private health insurance can be a good deal, it can offer better benefits for lower costs than public coverage does. However, with time you might start considering switching to public insurance in Germany. But how can one do that and is it even possible?
Switch from private to public health insurance is possible when:
- Reducing income to 66,600 EUR (2023) a year as an employee
- Switching from self-employed to the employment agreement
- Becoming unemployed
- Singing to the spouse’s public insurance
So you have private health insurance in Germany and considering switching to public coverage? It can be a great idea, but unfortunately, the strict German system not always allows us to do so. A change to the statutory health insurance (GKV) doesn’t work at every age and not in every life situation.
In this article, we explain how an employee, self-employed, student, or retiree can switch from private to public health insurance in Germany.
How to switch from private to public health insurance?
Returning or switching from private to statutory health insurance (GKV) is often quite difficult or not possible in Germany.
However, there are a few ways to switch to the public system. It will vary depending on whether you are an employee, self-employed, student, or retiree.
To make a change make to public health insurance, we need to consider several things. Firstly you need to know that switching from private to statutory health insurance is only possible in exceptional cases. Let’s talk more about them.
Here are the main ways to change from private to public health insurance in Germany:
- if employed, your salary must not be more than 66,600 EUR a year (2023)
- if self-employed or freelancing, there is no chance. In this case, you need to find employment where you don’t earn more than 57,600 EUR a year
- if you are a student, you can change within 3 months after starting the studies
- if you are older than 55 years, chances are very low of being accepted by statutory insurance
- if you are registered as unemployed and with no income, you can change
- if you are married and your partner has public insurance, you might join the family insurance and cancel the private one
Further, we will discuss in more detail how switching from private to public health insurance can be made for each case.
Switch to public health insurance as an employee
The first requirement to change back to public insurance as an employee in Germany is to be younger than 55 years old.
Besides that, you need to have an annual gross salary that is lower than 66,600 EUR. This is the threshold when employees are advised to opt for private health insurance.
So you are probably already over this limit since you have private insurance. The solution then will be to reduce your annual salary in some way. For example, you might reduce your working hours, or change your position.
Another option is to put part of the earnings into a company pension plan through so-called deferred compensation.
As soon as you fall below the salary limit, you immediately fall back under the statutory health insurance obligation, which the employer reports to the health insurance fund. You can then change to a health insurance company of your choice.
Check out AOK and TK, they are among the best public health insurance providers in Germany. You can sign with them easily only through a broker Feather.
How you can reduce your annual salary as an employee:
1. Reduce salary temporarily
You can reduce your salary through part-time work, or a sabbatical. You will need to regulate your income that way so that by the end of 12 months, you fall under the threshold of 66,600 EUR (2023). For example, you can work some months part-time.
Moreover, in Germany, you can you so-called bridge part-time to jump back to public insurance. The law, which came into force on January 1, 2019, allows employees to reduce their working hours for a certain period and then return to their original schedule.
However, the bridge part-time option is only available to someone who is working in a company with over 45 employees and has been employed for at least six months.
If you fall into this criteria, you can apply for temporary part-time work for at least one year.
After returning to statutory health insurance, you can increase your working hours and thus your salary. If your income then exceeds the annual income threshold again, you can keep the voluntary statutory health insurance, hence you don’t have to return to private health insurance.
2. Convert income into a company pension plan
If you earn less than 70,104 EUR (2023) gross annually, you have an even better way to switch to public insurance. An employee can invest some part of the income in the company’s pension plan (bAV).
In Germany, there is a legal entitlement to so-called deferred compensation where you can pay up to 3,504 EUR a year (as of 2023) from your gross income into a company pension scheme. The amount is free of social security contributions.
As a result, your annual income will be reduced by the amount of the pension. But as you can see it has limited numbers, you should earn under 70,104 EUR (2023) to make it work.
But this option is better than working part-time, by converting this income you make provisions for your old age instead of leaving some money on the table.
After a year of contribution, you can switch to public insurance and cancel the payments into the pension or reduce them.
3. Quit and or find another job with lower pay
This is more a critical option but still can work and be worthwhile. You can just quit your job. As an unemployed who received unemployment benefits, you will fall back to public health insurance.
Besides that, you can find a new position with a lower salary while still working your old job. Then just make a switch and so also make a switch in your health insurance with new income.
Switching to public health insurance as self-employed
A self-employed person in Germany doesn’t have a right to return to public health coverage. The reduction in salary won’t work in that case, since the threshold applies only to employees.
However, there are some workarounds, so you will be able to make a change too. Generally, self-employed in Germany has two options:
- Becoming an employee
- Becoming a part-time self-employed
Again to be able to switch one must not yet be 55 years old.
The optimal solution:
Self-employed can switch to statutory health insurance if they enter into an employment relationship, that is subject to social insurance contributions. With self-employment, it’s not the case.
Besides that, your annual income as an employee should be under the normal threshold of 66,600 EUR.
Furthermore, you can keep your self-employed activities as a side hustle while getting a normal job as a main source of income. This way switch to public insurance is also possible.
However, as a part-time self-employed you aren’t allowed to have employees with salaries over 520 EUR per month. Besides that there are some requirements for your employment:
- And as an employee, you must earn at least as much as you have profited from your self-employment. Otherwise, Germany can revoke your right to public health insurance.
- Your monthly income as an employee should also be above the limit of 1,698 EUR (2023).
- As an employee, you must work more than 20 hours per week.
And finally, once you are signed to public health insurance as an employee, you can later become full-time self-employed again and still keep the public coverage.
Self-employed people who are older than 55
If you are over 55 years old, you must also give up your self-employed activities to switch to public insurance. Moreover, you can benefit from the family insurance of your spouse or registered partner.
However, the main requirement is to give up the trade and have a total income of less than 520 EUR per month. Yes, quite tough, we know.
Switching to public health insurance as a student
Students have a right to choose their health coverage freely. You can be signed to private health insurance during all your studies or have public coverage.
Moreover, as a student, you have the right to public health insurance. However, you need to decide at the beginning of the studies (first 3 months) which insurance is the best for you.
Requirements for getting public coverage as a student in Germany:
- Be enrolled in a German university, college, etc. Can be private or public.
- Reside in Germany
- Be younger than 30
Students can switch from private to public coverage in the first 3 months of studies, after that they aren’t eligible to make any changes.
Meaning you can be stuck with private insurance if you have made this choice at the beginning.
Therefore, as long as you are studying, you cannot then switch to statutory health insurance.
Nonetheless, we recommend signing up for private health insurance as a student in Germany. So you can benefit from lower monthly costs with private coverages and better benefits.
Change your health insurance after studies
If a student has selected private health insurance from the beginning, the change can only be done after finishing the studies. For example, when you get a job in Germany and become an employee, you will automatically fall into public coverage.
Switching to public health insurance as an older person
Older people (over 55) with private health insurance will have a much harder time switching to public coverage.
Generally, it’s not possible unless your monthly income falls under 520 EUR per month.
The optimal solution:
For people over 55, a change to public insurance is almost impossible in Germany. The only way to do it is to become a part of the family insurance of the partner.
The main requirement is:
To have a monthly income below 538 EUR (2023) or 520 EUR if having a mini-job.
Further exceptions exist for severely disabled persons where anyone who is at least 50% severely disabled can apply for public insurance.
Nonetheless, most public insurance companies set the maximum age to 45, so they won’t accept people older than that.
Try this if nothing helps
When nothing helps you can try these ways to switch from private to public coverage:
- Reduce your income to 585 EUR (2023) per month and sign to the family public insurance of your spouse or registered partner.
- Also, retirees can reduce their pension for a certain period of time and switch to the family insurance of the spouse.
- Quit your job and sign up for unemployment benefits – you will fall into public insurance (only applies to people under 55 years of age).
- Become a member of public health insurance in another EU country.
1. Registering as unemployed in Germany and getting public insurance
According to the law, if a person receives unemployment benefit I, they can take out public insurance again (§ 5 para. 1.2 SGB V).
Moreover, one month of unemployment is sufficient to get public coverage.
2. Becoming a member of public health insurance in another EU country
Another emergency solution is to take out public health insurance in another European country. Countries with the same compulsory health insurance system are, among others, the Netherlands, Sweden, or Switzerland.
As a rule, you have to move to the respective country or get a job there. Furthermore, you must be insured there for at least twelve months and cancel your private health insurance in time.
After you come back to Germany permanently, you can again sign up for public coverage of your choice. One should do it within three months (§9 Abs. 2 Nr.1 SGB V).
Best public insurance in Germany
Now it’s time to pick the best coverage, so you don’t need to make any more changes. Our choice is public health insurance provided by AOK and TK.
You can sign for one of them by using the English-speaking broker Feather. They help expats and any other foreign nationals in Germany.
The public insurance coverage is more than sufficient, and sign-up happens conveniently online. Read reviews here.
Besides that, Feather is much easier to deal with than classic public insurance providers in Germany. In many cases they aren’t used to serving expats and foreign customers overall, so you will need to speak German.
Feather was originally built for foreigners in Germany, so they will satisfy all your needs.
Read the full review on insurances from Feather.
Best private insurance in Germany
Signing for another private insurance coverage is a good alternative to switching to the public one. Or if you weren’t able to make a change, you can always pick a better private coverage provider, that will satisfy your needs.
When it comes to private insurance, you have several options in Germany. We would recommend two main providers:
Where Ottonova is customized for foreign employees, expats, freelancers, and self-employed. Whereas, Feather is suitable for any occasion, including students or visa applicants. Moreover, Feather provides public insurance too.
Read the full review on insurances from Feather.
Reasons why people decide to switch from private coverage
In most cases, the disadvantages of having private health insurance only will be apparent after a few years of using it. For instance, people typically pay higher rates when they get older.
On the other hand, young people and especially young employees can save a bunch of money on insurance every month by having private coverage. You can read articles about how much insurance costs in Germany and how much private insurance costs.
Consequently, private coverage will be more affordable for younger to middle-aged people and more expensive for the older generation. For all people under 40, we recommend taking out private insurance in Germany.
Increase in the monthly rate
It gets expensive. This is by far the most common reason why people seek to change from private to public insurance providers in Germany.
Unsatisfaction with the service and benefits
Not all private insurance companies can provide great service and benefits to their clients. In some cases, you will need to pay extra to receive several medical treatments or medications.
Besides that, a company might lack customer service. And this is a very important factor when it comes to medical issues and emergencies.
Hope this article was insightful and now you have an idea about how to switch from a private to a public provider.
Before starting messing up with your employment and self-employment terms, we recommend looking at other insurance providers.
Change of the provider is easier than switching from a private to a public company.
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