The world of German insurance is easily (and often) misunderstood. That’s why we’re here to clear some things up! Today we tackle the issue of switching between public and private health insurance.
“If you get private health insurance, you’ll never be able to re-enter the public system. You’ll be stuck with private forever.”
You’ll hear this from brokers. You’ll hear this from friends. You’ll hear this from all of those “Expats in Germany” forums and Facebook groups. But it turns out that getting private health insurance doesn’t mean that you’re tied to the private system forever. So where did this myth come from? And what’s the truth of the matter?
The real deal
Switching to private doesn’t mean you’re barred from the public system for life. But there are two key conditions for re-entering the public system.
- Earn less than the private health insurance threshold. If you’re thinking of switching to a private plan, you probably know that there are some income requirements you need to fulfill. In 2021, this means that if you’re employed full-time, you must earn more than €64,350 a year to enter the private system. (If you’re a freelancer, though, you can choose to join private health insurance at any time.)
But income requirements also apply if you want to switch back into the public system—they just go the other way around. So by the 2021 rules, this means you’ll need to get a full-time job paying less than €64,350 annually to re-enter the public system. Of course, this also means that you’ll be earning less than you did when you joined private insurance. (And if you’re a freelancer, you’ll have to seek out full-time employment in order to make the switch. You cannot choose to switch to public if you’re still freelancing.)
- Be under 55 years old. Unfortunately, there is some age discrimination in German health insurance. One of the biggest determining factors for re-entering the public system is your age. You’ll need to be younger than 55 to switch back to public health insurance.
If you’re a freelancer, you’ll have to seek out full-time employment to switch from the private system into the public one. You cannot choose to switch to public if you’re still freelancing.
The bottom line
Switching from private health insurance back to public is not impossible! But you’ll need to make sure you fulfill the age requirements and potentially be willing to take a pay cut.