Insurance policies play an important role in life in Germany. In addition to social social security, which can include compulsory insurance coverage such as health insurance, further optional polices can also play an important role in everyday life.
With regards to insurance, it is important to differenciate between social insurance and optional private insurances. Some forms of social insurance are also available as optional insurance schemes, as these are not always compulsory. Especially health insurance, pension insurance, accident insurance and long-term care insurance are also offered as private insurance policies.
When are optional insurance policies an option?
As private insurance policies, these can supplement or be an alternative to compulsory social insurance plans, when:
the insurance is not manditory in the specific case or
you want to insure yourself beyond the scope covered by social insurance.
Whether or not a social insurance requirement applies must be checked on a case-by-case basis. Generally, anyone who is spending their research stay on the basis of an employment contract will be subject to compulsory social insurance requirements. In cases where a pure stipend or fellowship is being awarded, researchers are generally freed from social insurance obligations.
Further types of insurance policies
There are a number of types of optional insurance that can help provide insurance protection in daily life while in Germany, such as:
In Germany, you are liable for damage that you cause to another person or to another person's property. Third-party liability insurance (Haftplfichtversicherung) is there to cover the costs of such damage when the damage was caused by accident and often also in cases where damage was caused through negligence. Some policies may also cover damage caused by children or pets.
Policies can often be extended in order to cover certain damages, for example to your own home or in cases where you are doing someone a favour (for example damage caused while helping friends move).
Contents insurance (Hausratversicherung) can protect you against theft as well as damage to your property in certain situations, for example due to flooding. Property such as bicycles may also be protected through contents insurance.
Employees generally have accident insurance (Unfallversicherung) coverage during working hours. Through this coverage, they are insured against work accidents. However, it is important to note that this coverage generally does not cover accidents unrelated to work.
Private accident insurance supplements other insuance policies that already protect you in order to help cover costs arising from an accident that are not covered by these other policies, such as construction works necessary to make your home accessible in cases of mobility problems following an accident or for costs for prosthetics.
Legal protection insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherung) provides protection against costs for legal advice or, in the worse case, for legal defence. Many policies also offer an initial telephone consultation as part of their services.
As is the case with other policies, there are different levels of coverage possible. These usually depend on the area of law in which you want to be protected- policies can generally be extended to include labour law or residency law, for example.
Depending on your personal situation, survivors' insurance (Hinterbliebenenabsicherung) protection might also be a consideration. With this type of insurance, you are helping to financially secure others in the case of your own unexpected death.
There are a variety of policies that may come into question depending on your needs. For this reason it is important to think about your own situation and to inform yourself thoroughly about what support survivors may need.
Statutory health insurance covers necessary treatment, but this means that some costs, such as those for dental treatment, are generally not covered or not covered entirely by statutory health insurance policies. In order to cover these costs, it is possible to get supplementary insurance policies (Zusatzversicherungen).
It is also possible to get other forms of suplementary health insurances. These can, for example, ensure you have a single room should you need to stay in hospital or provide for hospital treatment by a head physician.
Some statutory health insurance providers work with certain supplementary health insurance providers in order to specifically supplement their services, though these supplementary policies need to be applied for with the provider separately.
If you are registering a vehicle in Germany, you will need to show proof of vehicle insurance (Kfz-Versicherung).
As is the case with other types of insurance, vehicle insurance policies differ in the amount that they cover and what exactly is covered, for example whether other people driving a car are insured or not.
Furthermore, it is important to note that there is a difference between vehicle insurance alone, which covers damage to property or people, part-comprehensive coverage or complete comprehensive coverage, which also cover damage to your own vehicle.
Further Information Regarding Optional Insurances
Insurance providers are generally required to explain their policies to you thoroughly before you sign up. Especially in cases where you may apply for a policy online, it is generally recommended that you read the conditions thoroughly.
Insurance brokers may also help you to find the right policies for your specific situation.These brokers are not contractually obliged to specific insurance providers.
The German Association of the Insured (Bund der Versicherten) provides, in addition to information about the types of optional insurance polices listed here, a free necessity check (Bedarfscheck) where you can get information on types of insurance that might make sense for you. All services are provided only in German.
More detailed information from the German Association of the Insured can also be found on the following pages (in German):