Getting German Insurance in just 287237 easy steps. Warning: bureaucratic frustration ahead.
Part of the reason for the radio silence over here lately has been my ongoing quest to renew my residence permission. As it turns out, deportation jokes are a lot less funny when it is an actual possibility, so I didn’t want to write anything about it until it was done and dealt with. I couldn’t bring myself to pretend that everything was a-okay, la la la, when there was a very real chance that I was going to be chased out of the country by faceless German bureaucrats carrying torches made of insurance contracts and syringes instead of pitchforks.
My dreams lately have been delightful, let me tell you. So what exactly happened, you ask? Let’s back up a bit…
If you want to live in Germany, you need to have health insurance. As I planned to work freelance, I was told that I couldn’t get into the public system, and the private system was far too expensive for most people teaching English. Since I had to buy something, I decided to buy a policy aimed at travelers, or expats, that I knew of from my time in Prague. The TEFL course that I attended had recommended it as a good choice, as people coming to Prague should have insurance as well. While I lived there, I was insured through my job, so I let it lapse until I got here. It wasn’t terribly expensive, and could be done easily online, which were my main criteria at that point in time.
When I first applied for my residence permission/freelance work permit, all they required was a copy of my insurance card. The next year, it was the same. No fuss, no muss.
Fast forward two years to this September. When I lived in Nürnberg, a few weeks before my permit expired I received a letter that detailed what I needed to do to renew it, and had an appointment date. Because I moved, I didn’t know if it would be the same here. My permit was good until the end of September, and we ended up having to call them mid-month, to see what the deal was, and only after that did they send on the info for renewal.
I sent everything in as quickly as possible, but a 2-week turnaround wasn’t possible. That meant I ended up having to pay for a 3-month extension while they process my paperwork. Okay, that’s doable.
About a week or two later, I got an email from the foreigner’s office. There was a form attached, that needed to be filled out and signed by my insurance company. The form had a list, and the insurance company had to tick off what was covered. The list included general medical care, dental care, hospitalizations, medical equipment, prenatal care, and so on. I sent it to my insurance and they sent it back right away, but as my policy didn’t cover dental or prenatal care, they left those unchecked.
I sent the form back to the foreigner’s office, and they quickly replied that if not all of the items on the list were covered, then my new residence permit would be denied.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
The next month was a flurry of phone calls and emails between us, various insurance companies, and insurance agents. One agent that I found through the Toy Town Germany forums responded to me very quickly, and basically told me that
1) he couldn’t believe I’d gotten away with the other policy for so long and
2) as an American, there was no way I could get onto a German policy.
The main problem was that I had already been here for three years, “without insurance,” which was insanely frustrating because I did have insurance, it just wasn’t the kind that they wanted. That agent wanted to sell me another expat policy out of the UK, but the reviews online weren’t great, and I wasn’t eager to get another foreign policy and run into this problem again in another two years.
We did look into putting me onto BV’s public insurance, but they said we would have to have been married/together for seven years, and even then there would be a massive penalty for not having a German insurance before.
I spoke to my current insurance company, and it would be possible to add on dental at any renewal point. Plus, since I’d been a continuous member for more than two years, I could actually add on prenatal care as well. Unfortunately, no changes to the policy could be made until it was up for renewal in February, which would be too late.
Finally we managed to find an agent who seemed determined to make something work for us. After a few attempts with different private insurance companies, he found us a loophole that would avoid our having to pay the penalty for being “uninsured” for three years.
The loophole is pretty much this… BV had to sign up for the policy, with me as the covered person. Since he’s obviously had insurance forever, this got us out of having to pay a penalty of upwards of €10,000. Yeah. you read that right.
Private insurance isn’t exactly cheap, and the price has gotten even higher since I don’t fall into the “normal” BMI range (this is what they call “adding insult to injury”), but after visits to the doctor to make sure I don’t have super-AIDS or any other horrible diseases, I am insured.
Moral of the story: if you are coming to Germany, get your ass insured in the German system as quickly as possible. It’s not easy, and it’s not cheap, but it will save you a lot of time and stress down the road. It’s a miracle that my blood pressure was normal when I saw the doctor the first time.
I wish I had known about this three years ago, but since the foreigner’s office didn’t question my insurance the first time around, I had no idea that my policy wasn’t good enough. There was no information I could find that listed what had to be covered. But now we know.
I really wanted to close this post with a triumphant picture of me skipping about with my new residence permit, but I don’t have it yet. I thought I would get it at my appointment last Friday, but it turns out that was just the appointment where I pay €120 to stay here for the next two years. Now I just have to wait for a letter from Berlin with a code that we need to pick up the actual permit.
My agent at the foreigner’s office said that it should come in the next two weeks, so we’re crossing fingers and pressing thumbs that it comes as soon as possible, and we can pick it up without too much trouble around the Christmas holidays. We’re dying to go somewhere over New Year’s, but I’m not leaving the country until I have that card in hand. Better safe than busted at the border!