Should statutory health insurance be suspended when staying abroad?


Lerato Khumalo

If you move abroad, you have to arrange a lot of things beforehand. Depending on where you are going, your health insurance may no longer pay. Can I then put it on hold?

Whether it’s an Erasmus semester during your studies, a “work and travel” trip after school or a professional transfer – longer stays abroad are always a little adventure. And having to deal with bureaucratic issues such as statutory health insurance coverage doesn’t fit in with that. But it’s still necessary.

Depending on which country you live in in the future, the German health insurance company will continue to pay – or not. We explain when which case applies and whether you can suspend your statutory health insurance (GKV) in Germany if you no longer receive any benefits from it anyway.

When does my German health insurance also pay abroad?

Basically, if you are going abroad within the European Union, the matter is relatively straightforward. It doesn’t matter whether you are moving to another EU country for a longer period of time or are only staying there temporarily: you will continue to be insured under the German statutory health insurance scheme and will also receive benefits abroad. The question of whether you should suspend your health insurance does not even arise.

Please note, however, that the exact services your statutory health insurance covers abroad can vary depending on your destination country. Therefore, find out early on in which cases you can be treated without any problems and which doctors are suitable.

Before long-term stays, you should also get the so-called Portable Document S1 issued. This gives you a health insurance card for other EU countries. If you are only temporarily abroad in Europe, your normal health insurance card is often sufficient.

If it says “European Health Insurance Card” (EHIC) on the back, you will receive all medically necessary services that cannot wait until you return to Germany. This also applies to the non-EU countries Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. If you do not yet have an EHIC, you should get one or, alternatively, a certificate of entitlement from your health insurance company.

However, if you end up in a country outside the EU, your statutory insurance cover (Section 16 of the Social Security Code V) expires if there is no bilateral social security agreement (SVA) between Germany and your new home country. You will then definitely need private international health insurance. You can find out which providers are suitable for this here.

Good to know: If you are unable to take out this insurance due to a pre-existing condition or your age, you should notify your statutory health insurance provider of the rejection before you travel. They can then cover the costs of immediately necessary treatment for a maximum of six weeks in a calendar year, even if you are in countries outside the EU or in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Private international health insurance can also be useful for trips within the EU if the insurance coverage provided by your statutory health insurance is not sufficient or if you want to protect yourself against the costs of repatriation to Germany. Otherwise, you would always have to pay for these yourself, even from other European countries.

Yes. If you stay outside of Europe for a longer period of time, you have the option of ending your membership of the statutory health insurance scheme in Germany and then no longer paying contributions. This is possible without any problems if you have deregistered your German residence. This is because you are then no longer required to have insurance in Germany.

If you remain registered in Germany despite living abroad, you may still be able to deregister. This applies if you can prove that you have moved your usual place of residence to another country or that you have otherwise insured yourself against illness (Section 190, Paragraph 13, No. 2 of the Social Code Book V).

Without an official deregistration confirmation, the following documents will help you prove your habitual residence abroad:

  • Leave of absence granted by the employer
  • Travel/foreign health insurance policy
  • Travel documents such as flight tickets and hotel bookings
  • Registration certificates or rental agreements abroad
  • Visas or residence permits for third countries

Since health insurance is compulsory in Germany, rejoining the statutory health insurance scheme is usually possible without any problems. This applies at least to all employees who earn less than 69,300 euros gross per year. In that case, you must join a statutory health insurance scheme. You can choose this freely. Those who earn more can voluntarily take out statutory or private insurance.

However, since statutory health insurance is not obliged to accept voluntarily insured persons, it makes sense for these people to take out a so-called waiting period insurance policy with their current statutory health insurance provider before going abroad.