There are over 100 different health insurance companies in Germany. Some of them are statutory health insurances, and others are private. These two main types of insurance differ in terms of accessibility, amount of personal contributions and benefits. In principle, you can choose your health insurance company freely- there are some limitations, but only in the case of private health insurances: private health insurance schemes admit only certain occupational groups (civil servants, self-employed professionals, students) and high-income workers. The statutory health insurance schemes, however, accept everyone regardless of the professional group and income level.
In a statutory health insurance scheme, your health insurance contributions depend on your salary, i.e. the more substantial your income, the higher your monthly dues. That means the low-income members of statutory health insurance schemes pay less. The idea behind the difference in contributions is that all the members of society bear the costs of health insurance collectively. A significant advantage of the statutory health insurance is that, under certain circumstances, you can also include your spouse and children in your health insurance scheme. To learn more about the topic, read the section "Family Insurance".
In private health insurance schemes, the amount of your health insurance contributions does not depend on your income, but your insurance risk. Every individual's insurance risk is calculated based on the age, gender, pre-existing conditions and, to some extent, type of lifestyle. But it is safe to say that in the case of private health insurance, the contributions are usually higher than statutory health insurance schemes. That is why private patients are often treated preferentially, and, e.g. can book a doctor’s appointment quicker than others. Furthermore, privately insured individuals are usually entitled to more benefits than statutory insured individuals. However, as a member of a private health insurance scheme, initially, you must pay all the costs of doctors' visits and medications in person- your health insurance company then compensates you afterwards.
If you work in art- or media-related professions, you can apply for admission to the German Artists' Social Security Fund ("Künstlersozialkasse", a.k.a KSK). If admitted, you pay only half of the designated insurance contributions, and the Künstlersozialkasse covers the remainder.
Most people in Germany are members of statutory health insurance schemes. If you are unsure which health insurance company is right for you, consult the Consumer Protection Organisation ("Verbraucherzentrale"). You can also compare the different insurance policies and their benefits or shortcomings at www.krankenkassen.de. Every insurance company -whether private or statutory- offers various insurance schemes. Some of these schemes, for instance, cover the costs of glasses or alternative medicines, but others not.
Please note: Switching from a private health insurance scheme to a statutory one is often very difficult, even impossible. Before joining a private insurance scheme, you should carefully examine if this is the right choice for you.