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A to Z Challenge: I is for Insurance woes

By Friday, April 10, 2015 ,

This post originally appeared as part of the A to Z Challenge, and was called 'I is for Insurance"

I was so excited when I found out I'd got the job in Germany.

This was my first real job, and I may have gone into it a little blindly. For example, I assumed there was no way I could be working (and not a student) at a University in Germany and not have health insurance, so I didn't ask about it.

I hadn't finished my master's degree yet, so they couldn't technically employ me (this system also ensures everyone gets the same pay based on their education and experience- usually it's a good thing), so I would be there as a visiting scholar until I finished it, or got enough experience that they could officially hire me.

Sounds good, right?

Except since I wasn't officially employed, we didn't get any benefits. That money I got every month from them wasn't a salary, it was a "stipend".

Did you know it's illegal to live in Germany without health insurance? As an EU citizen I don't even need a visa to move to Germany. It took my husband a less than 15 minute meeting to get a 5 year visa*. But we were still living there illegally if we didn't have insurance.

I was 25 when I first moved, so I was on my parents' health plan until I turned 26, which gave me about 8 months to learn more about the health insurance system.

According to howtogermany.com, "Approximately 85% of the population are mandatory or voluntary members of the public health scheme while the rest have private health insurance."

I contacted the public health insurance companies (they all offer more or less the same coverage) and had them tell me that no, I could not buy into the scheme, I could only join through my work.

But what about the private insurance? surely we could sign up for that.

Well, you have to be rich to join. And not just because it's expensive, according to Angloinfo.com "Public health insurance (Krankenkasse) is compulsory unless income is above a fixed sum (in 2014 this was €4,462.50 per month)." And I certainly wasn't making that on my dinky little "stipend!"

So when I turned 26, my work - the same people who were denying me health insurance - started bugging me about it. It was illegal for them to employ someone living in Germany illegally, they could get in a lot of trouble, they'd tell me.

But they couldn't recommend anywhere for me to actually buy it from (I'm not sure something like this even exists). I couldn't join the public plan or buy private insurance. Week after week they kept asking, telling me I could be in a lot of trouble, and yet wouldn't actually hire me or help me.

They even sent me to Kathmandu for three weeks without giving me health insurance.

What I did in the end was buy travel insurance, which would help me out if I got, say, hit by a bus. But for more routine things we had to pay out of pocket. Which we did until they decided I'd had enough experience and could hire me. Which came as a complete surprise interruption in my pay, led to me almost being declared dead, losing three hundred euro because a government employee decided we lied about my husband living with me, and a huge amount of paperwork.

but at least we got health insurance!

*my husband had bought travel insurance already, and they accepted that.

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  1. Did the university provide life insurance? You could have used your death-note to get paid life insurance... and then used that money to buy health insurance. :)

  2. Wow what a nightmare! And I thought figuring out insurance in the States was complicated.

  3. Yikes! This is interesting info about Germany, though, in the Philippines and Singapore (where I've lived so far), they don't have those rules. But luckily my companies have always covered by insurance anyway.

    Jakarta & Bandung, Indonesia [AtoZchallenge]