Having health insurance in Germany is compulsory for residents. The country has a public health plan, but there are also private insurance options. There are rules stipulating how much you have to pay for the public insurance, and some select doctors only take privately insured patients.
Under Chris’s contract, we are ineligible for Germany’s public health plan. Friends of mine who have it seem to be very pleased with the care they get for the cost. We had to find our own insurance when we arrived.
Chris worked with financial advisors through his work, but no one could find a company to cover us. It was getting so serious, that I was even looking into extremely expensive COBRA options from the U.S.
During this stressful time, we were dealing with other issues of moving abroad, such as setting up a bank account. The man helping us at the bank offered us renters’ insurance, which we needed, then he happened to say, “Did you find health insurance yet?”
“No,” we said in hopeful unison. He told us that the bank offers a policy to people like us (on fixed-term positions), and they do not look at pre-existing conditions. It was an amazing stroke of luck that we found out about this, since we were getting very desperate. We found out you had to sign the contract within 2 weeks of arrival, and we had made it just in time.
The plan we ended up getting is pretty good. It covers all doctors’ visits and prescriptions in Germany and abroad. This is a nice option so I can see my U.S. doctors when I’m back in the U.S. if I need to.
A couple of my British girlfriends have come to Germany under contracts similar to Chris’s. They were able to find some companies that would cover them as long as they didn’t get pregnant and actually had to sign something saying they wouldn’t get pregnant. They both decided if they unintentionally got pregnant, they would move back to the U.K. and have their pregnancy charges covered under Britain’s National Health Insurance. My plan is not this restrictive, though it makes me see how lucky my friends are to have the option of returning to their home country with universal coverage, if needed.
It is a horrible feeling to get rejected from insurance companies and to not know how you will pay your medical bills. I only went through it for a few weeks, so I feel for people who have to deal with it in their day-to-day life.
Relieved to finally be insured, my celebration ended abruptly when I realized I would now have to find English-speaking doctors and navigate through a new medical culture.
See how well I’ve fared at German doctors’ offices so far: