Everybody gets sick sometimes or accidentally breaks things. That’s why health and private liability insurance are vital. But what do asylum-seekers and recognized refugees need to bear in mind when taking out insurance policy in Germany? Here we look at the basics and the ins and outs of key insurance policies for refugees and asylum-seekers in Germany. Benjamin Bathke/InfoMigrant reports.
The two most important insurances for people living in Germany are private liability insurance (advisable) and health insurance (required by law). Refugees, of course, are not exempted from this rule.
Let’s start with private liability insurance. Whether intentional or not, you will be liable for the damage when you drop a friend’s smartphone and it breaks. Without insurance, you are liable with your entire assets. In the worst-case scenario, this could mean your financial ruin.
Private, or personal liability insurance covers damages that happen in and out of the private home of the insured person, for example during spare time or sports activities. Aside from physical damage of objects (“Sachschäden”) and property damage (“Vermögensschäden”), liability insurance also covers personal injuries (“Personenschäden”).
In the case of damage claims, the insurance company not only examines and pays for the damage, but it also protects from unjustified claims. And in the case of a lawsuit, the insurance company leads and pays for the trial.
Private liability insurance – important tips
- insurance fees vary between €40 to €90 per year (for the same benefits); price comparisons are worthwhile
- discount: The payment method influences the rate. That means paying monthly or quarterly instead of yearly incurs an additional fee of mostly three to ten percent, the so-called installment surcharge (“Ratenzahlungszuschlag”)
- direct providers (“Direktanbieter”) are often cheaper, but they lack personal consultation
- claims: Damages must be reported immediately; claims for damages should never be paid in advance – in case you do, you’ll likely lose the insurance benefit (‘admission of guilt’)
- termination: In case the insurance company increases the insurance fees, you have the right to both an immediate termination and to look for a cheaper provider
- volunteering: If you work or regularly volunteer somewhere, even without or little pay, you should inquire whether your private liability insurance covers any damage you might cause; if you get hurt, a free statutory accident insurance kicks in (see below)
Things private liability insurance pays for:
- the repair costs when something is damaged
- the value of the item when something breaks and cannot be repaired
- doctor and hospital bills when someone is injured or hurt
- children – through their parents’ private liability insurance; parents are liable for damage caused by children under the age of seven (“Eltern haften für ihre Kinder”)
- damage caused by a small pet, such as a cat or bird; larger pets like dogs must be covered by a separate insurance (“pet owner liability”)
- any damage to a rented private apartment including losing the keys
Kinds of damage private liability insurance do NOT pay for:
- damage caused deliberately
- damage to moving objects that are rented, borrowed or leased; (some insurance tariffs do cover this)
- damage that occurred during one’s professional activity
- damage the insured person or their relatives, who live in the same household or are among those included in the insurance, suffer themselves
Things to remember when taking out private liability insurance
- private liability insurance is available to both individuals and families
- seek independent advice, for example at Germany’s Consumer Advice Center (“Verbraucherzentrale”) – online or at one of its several hundred branches nationwide
- when it comes to insurance tariffs, the devil is in the detail: Although most services are similar at first glance, the fineprint might tell a different story, so read carefully; also see occupational disability insurance
- the amount of insurance offered should be at least €10 million; (the insurance amount is the maximum sum of money the insurance company will pay in the event of damage)
- the insurance coverage should apply all over the world
- many providers offer cheap rates for singles and retirees
Health insurance – important tips
Statutory health insurance (“gesetzliche Krankenversicherung”) helps you and your family when you are ill. Health insurance companies (“Krankenkassen”) pay for many medical treatments and healthcare provision (“Gesundheitsversorgung”) costs, such as hospital stays, dental care, vaccinations, check-ups, rehabilitation measures and childbirth.
Healthcare, for asylum-seekers and those subject to a temporary suspension of removal (“Duldung”) who have been in Germany for less than 15 months, as well as persons obliged to leave (“ausreisepflichtig”), is restricted to emergency healthcare (instances “of acute diseases or pain”) under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act (“Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz”).
While some German states make you apply for a voucher (“Krankenschein”) from the social welfare office before each doctor’s visit, other states issue so-called Health Cards for Refugees (“Gesundheitskarte für Flüchtlinge”). Such a card enables you to directly access medical care without going through the authorities and obtaining vouchers.
According to the Asylum Information Database (AIDA), emergency care for asylum seekers is restricted to “necessary medical or dental treatment [and] has to be provided.” This includes “medication, bandages and other benefits necessary for convalescence, recovery, or alleviation of disease or necessary services addressing [the] consequences of illnesses.”
- if you’ve been in Germany for more than 15 months and your asylum request is still being processed, you’re entitled to the same statutory healthcare as Germans (except long-term care insurance (“Pflegeversicherung,” see below); as an asylum seeker, you are free to choose a statutory health insurance company
- recognized refugees, persons granted subsidiary protection and others, on the other hand, are entitled to social welfare benefits including statutory health insurance according to the German Social Code II (“Sozialgesetzbuch,” or SGB II); recognized refugees in a so-called insurable employment (“sozialversicherungspflichtiges Beschäftigungsverhältnis”) have to pay for their statutory health insurance
- pregnant refugees and migrants and those who have recently given birth are entitled to “medical and nursing help and support”, including midwife assistance, vaccination and “necessary preventive medical check-ups”
- statutory health insurance is compulsory up to a specific level of income and is most common in Germany; if you earn more, you can opt to pay into a private health insurance fund instead
- sick pay: If you cannot work for a prolonged period because of illness and therefore do not receive your salary, you’ll receive sick pay (“Krankengeld”) (as an equalization payment)
- not everything is (fully) covered, including glasses, prescription drugs, translators and the costs for the trip to the healthcare provider, but there are exceptions for children; special items like glasses or dental prostheses can take a long time to be approved by the insurance company
- prescription medicine: your health insurance covers most of the cost for prescribed medicine you can collect at pharmacies, but you must pay ten percent of the price per package (but no more than €10); it’s free of charge for those under 18
- medical confidentiality: doctors are not allowed to pass on information about you to others – that is to authorities, your employer or family members – without your permission; sometimes this also applies to information about the health of your children
What is a health insurance card?
- those with statutory health insurance receive an electronic health insurance card (“Gesundheitskarte”) that documents their membership; the card includes a photo and an electronic record of your name, date of birth, address, policy number and insurance status
- in some German cities, refugees are issued this card upon arrival; always carry your health insurance card with you as it must be submitted whenever you see your physician so that your health insurance can be billed for treatment
- health insurance cards are valid in all 28 EU countries as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland; if you fall ill in one of these countries, your card gives you access to medical treatment there
Things to remember about health insurance
- always collect all health-related payment receipts as the insurance company may reimburse you
- if you have private health insurance, you must initially pay for visits to the doctor and for medicines yourself; you can then send the original receipts to your health insurance, which will reimburse the costs
- if your spouse is not employed, they may be covered under your statutory health insurance policy at no extra charge; the same holds true for your children
- in the event of accidents, emergencies, or if you fall ill outside consulting hours, you can call the emergency doctor service; in cases of extreme emergency, call 112 to contact the emergency service (ambulance) directly
- if you only speak some German and would like to visit a doctor who speaks your language, the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians can help find local addresses and telephone numbers on their website.
What other insurances should I consider?
- household contents insurance (“Hausratversicherung”) pays for damages to items in your house through fire, theft, vandalism, explosion, storms and tap water; whether you need one depends on the value of the household items
- statutory accident insurance (“Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung”) helps you and your family cope with health and financial problems that are the immediate consequence of an accident at work or occupational illness; ‘accidents at work’ also include accidents on the way to and from work or school, but not in your private environment
- long-term care insurance helps you if you cannot look after yourself in old age or because of a severe illness and are dependent on long-term care. In addition, long-term care insurance provides financial support and advice to those who care for their relatives
- occupational disability insurance (“Berufsunfähigkeitsversicherung,” or BU) takes effect if you are no longer in a position to pursue your profession; make sure your insurance policy doesn’t require a forecast horizon (“Prognosezeitraum”) that’s longer than six months (since your doctor is unlikely to attest you are unfit for work for much longer) and that your doctor attests you’re unfit for work for (at least) six month (since your policy doesn’t take effect otherwise)
- unemployment insurance: If you lose your job and had statutory insurance for at least twelve months previously, you can apply for unemployment benefits; you will receive unemployment benefit for a maximum of twelve months
- life insurance (“Lebensversicherung”) pays a designated beneficiary a sum of money in exchange for a premium upon the death of the insured person (often the policy holder)
- motor vehicle insurance (“KFZ-Haftplichtversicherung”) is required by law when driving a car and covers damages to other vehicles when you cause an accident; the optional yet recommended “Teilkasko” (partial coverage) and “Vollkasko” (comprehensive coverage) insurance covers damages to your own car
- you can find checklists on insurance in German, English, Arabic, Russian and Farsi on the website of Germany’s Consumer Advice Center
- there is a health guide for asylum seekers by Germany’s Ministry of Health with information on hospitals, vaccinations, pregnancy and more
- check your insurance policies when your circumstances change; e.g. if you move into a new flat, get married, have children or buy a car
- both AIDA and Handbook Germany have further information on healthcare for refugees in Germany on their websites
- the website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has general information on doctor’s visits and healthcare in Germany
- the Migration Advisory Service for Adult Immigrants offers help to decide between statutory and private health insurance
- information on “taking out insurance policies” and lists with insurance terms are on the make-it-in-germany website
- pharmacies have a night and emergency service; you will find up-to-date information on this online and in your local newspaper