Health insurance, doctors & mental health
In Germany, health insurance is a compulsory requirement for students and a necessary condition of enrollment.
The German system has two kinds of health insurance: private and public. BMS students can choose one over another depending on several factors like nationality, costs and general health status. Both types of insurance typically offer online and English services.
- Private health insurance (private Krankenversicherung) is usually the cheaper option, ranging between 35€ and 50€ per month. However, it may not cover all kinds of treatments (e.g. vaccinations, dental procedures or regular visits without proof of illness are not covered) and patients may typically need to pay upfront at doctor's offices and then ask for a reimbursement from the insurance company.
- Public health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) is the more expensive option but covers everything. For every doctor's visit, showing the insurance card will guarantee full coverage. General check-ups like going to the dentist or the OB GYN once a year or vaccinations are covered and do not need a medical reason. Extra payments may be incurred if asking for extra services (e.g. ultrasound if not medically necessary) or in case of major dental work (e.g. bridges or crowns).
Phase I students under 30 years old can apply for a special student rate with public health insurance (about 110€ per month). Students over 30 must take out private insurance or pay a higher rate (usually 15% of your income).
Phase II students with a scholarship choosing public health insurance must pay around 15% of their income as health insurance fee. However, Phase II students from non-EU/EFTA countries are eligible for public health insurance only if their residence permit is valid for at least 12 months. Phase II students with PhD positions (employment contracts) must choose a public health insurance provider and the fee will be automatically deducted from their salary. Any student can apply for private health insurance, which does not offer a fixed student rate.
For the university enrollment, students choosing private health insurance will need to obtain a waiver or exemption certificate (Befreiungsbescheinigung) from a German public health insurance company. Please note: it is not allowed to switch from private insurance to a public provider. This can only happen if starting for example an employment contract for the first time, thus switching from a student status into an employee position.
Students from EU/EFTA countries may not need to take out health insurance in Germany as long as they possess a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EHIC is part of a health service agreement between all EU and EFTA countries, which gives citizens of those countries access to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the countries. Students should ask the public health insurance provider in their home country to issue an EHIC before moving to Germany. Upon arrival, they can obtain an exemption certificate by taking the EHIC to any German public health insurance company. This certificate is also necessary for university enrollment.
Germany has also signed bilateral social security agreements (Sozialversicherungsabkommen) with some non-EU countries, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Morocco, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey and Tunesia. As for the EHIC, students from these countries should ask the health insurance provider in their home country to issue a certificate of insurance coverage and bring it to a German public insurance provider asking for recognition and exemption from public insurance obligation.
Please refer to the following websites for further information about public and private health insurance in Germany:
Some examples of health insurance providers:
Barmer GEK: https://www.barmer.de/en/become-member
(Mawista also has an informative website on health insurance in Germany: https://www.mawista.com/en/statutory-health-insurance/?pk_campaign=gkv&pk_kwd=hauptseite&pk_source=newsletter&pk_medium=mail&pk_cid=011&pk_group=03)
Bank account, Health insurance and travel health insurance (for visa) combined:
Some relocation companies have designed special packages of visa-related services for international students coming to Germany. One of these is Expatrio, which provides an all-inclusive offer combining a travel health insurance, a blocked account (if necessary) and a German bank account. After the university enrollment is confirmed, Expatrio automatically switches the travel health insurance into a public health insurance under the German provider TK (Techniker Krankenkasse).
English speaking doctors in Berlin
Most doctors speak at least English and some have listed the languages that they speak on their websites. It is worth it to just call the closest one and ask if they speak English. There are no restrictions from your health insurance with regards to choosing a doctor or hospital. However, a few selected doctors (usually in wealthy areas) will declare that they do not accept public health insurance, so look for the words “Alle Kassen” (here “Kasse” means health insurance provider)
All three Berlin Universities offer counseling and psychological services. Students may contact them to discuss a range of issues from study motivation, orientation at university, meeting deadlines and exam nerves, to study overload, homesickness, family problems, depression or any other academic or non-academic issue. The current COVID-19 pandemic has notoriously caused negative effects on students’ mental health, thus making them less motivated to study and increasing symptoms of depression and isolation.
At the first meeting, the counselor will outline what steps can be taken to solve a specific problem. Further appointments can be made or else the counselor will help the student to find a therapist if necessary. The counseling sessions are strictly confidential.
If you are seaking long-term/ regular psychotherapy, you will need to contact a psychologist or general practitioner first to get a diagnosis. It may also help to contact your health insurance provider to ask for advice on finding the right doctor or therapist and how to get the therapy covered by your insurance. For individual counseling, Berlin offers a wide range of English-speaking psychotherapists. Depending on your nationality, it is also very likely to find a therapist speaking your mother tongue in Berlin. Public health insurance typically covers the cost of psychotherapy, however, it may take a few weeks (or even months) to get a cost plan and find a therapist. You should always double check with your therapist whether they are covered by public health insurance, what kind of reimbursements are possible or whether you have to pay privately.