Wondering which health insurance company you should choose in Germany? Not sure if TK (Techniker Krankenkasse) is the best choice for you? I am insured with TK for 11 years now and my whole family is with TK. In this review, you can find my honest opinion about TK and why I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for public health insurance in Germany.
Moving to Germany or new in Germany? Check out our Support Page for all the resources you need!
Healthcare system in Germany
In Germany, everyone is required to have health insurance. There are two types of health insurance in Germany: Public health insurance and private health insurance. The vast majority of German people are insured with public health insurance. There are more than a hundred different public health insurance companies in Germany. And they are regulated by law.
So, their prices and coverage are very similar. The only difference would be the customer services and the additional contribution rate. This rate is set by the health insurance companies individually.
The largest public health insurance company in Germany is TK. I am insured with TK since day one in Germany. And my whole family is with TK too. If you are looking for public health insurance in Germany, I can highly recommend TK because of its English language, great coverage, and excellent customer support.
You can sign up here in English!
Are all the public health insurance companies in Germany the same?
Some people think that every public health insurance company is more or less the same in Germany. So, they just let their employers randomly pick one for them. Yes, the public health insurance companies are very similar in Germany. But they do have some differences, especially in terms of customer support or different incentives like cashback. My advice is to do your own research and pick your desired health insurance. Don’t let your employer make the decision for you. Instead, let your employer know beforehand about your desired health insurance provider.
What is TK?
TK is Techniker Krankenkasse. It is the biggest health insurance provider in Germany with more than 10 million members. It is a non-profit public health insurance provider.
TK review – How much does it cost?
A good thing about public health insurance in Germany is that the cost depends on your income. The more you earn, the more you pay, and vice versa. Everybody pays the same price, regardless of health condition and age. The cost is calculated based on a percentage of your income. This percentage is set by law and the same for all public health insurance companies. If you are employed, your employer needs to pay half of your contribution. So, you only pay half!
The cost of public health insurance is deducted directly from your monthly payslip. Here is the cost breakdown in 2021:
- Health insurance rate set by law: 14.6%
- Additional contribution rate from TK: 1.2% (This rate is set by each public health insurance company individually. TK has one of the lowest costs.)
- Long-term nursing care scheme: 3.05% or 3.3% if you have no kids
Total: Around 19% of your income. And since your employer is paying half, you will pay around 9.5% of your gross income. If you earn more than 4,837.5 Euro per month (Year 2021), the cost of TK insurance will be capped at around 456 Euro monthly.
If you are a student, you can have a discount and pay only around 110 Euros per month.
Your dependent spouse and children can be covered for free.
If you are self-employed, you will have to pay the 19% on your own (around 912 Euro monthly maximum). That is why it can be much cheaper to go for private health insurance in Germany in this case. Check out this post: Private vs Public Health Insurance: What is Better for Expats in Germany?
TK review – What is covered?
Medical treatment in Germany and other EU countries
Almost everything I need from a doctor is covered by TK health insurance. This includes all necessary healthcare like doctors’ consultation, hospital treatment, blood tests, ultrasound checkups, vaccinations, basic dental care, pregnancy care, and childbirth, etc. Basically, anything that is considered necessary. TK even covers you when you travel abroad in other EU countries!
In most cases, the only thing I need to pay for is the medicine. In Germany, you won’t get your medicines directly from the doctor. Instead, you will have to buy medicines from a pharmacy. There is a co-payment of around 5 to 10 Euros for prescribed medicines. The cost of the prescribed medicines is fully covered if it is for your kids. For more details, check this out: Pharmacies in Germany – Guide for Expats
Your spouse and dependents
Your dependent spouse and kids can also be covered with your TK health insurance at no additional cost!
Sick leave benefits
If you have a long-term sickness, your employer will pay you your full salary for the first 6-week sick leave. Afterward, TK will kick in and pay you up to 70% of your gross income (Krankengeld). You can get Krankengeld for up to 78 weeks in three years for the same illness. This applies to all public health insurance policies. For more details about sick leave benefits, check this out: Sick Leave In Germany – Everything you need to know
Fitness courses and online health courses
TK encourages you to keep yourself healthy. So, TK supports you if you join some fitness courses that are improving your health like Yoga. You can reimburse part of the course costs, or you can even join the courses for free if they are part of the TK courses.
TK also provides online health courses. These include topics like optimizing your diet, reducing your stress, or quitting smoking, etc. You can get high-quality information by joining these free courses.
TK review – Pros and cons
Pros of TK health insurance
I have been with TK for the last 11 years. In the below review, you can see why I choose TK.
TK provides customer support in different languages, including English. I didn’t speak German when I first moved to Germany. But I never had problems when I wrote emails to TK in English. You can also use its chat function on the TK website or call them.
Nowadays, I use the English TK app and I write to TK through the app. When I was pregnant a few years ago, I had so many questions. I was surprised that TK even sent me documents with all the details about pregnancy coverage, in English!
You don’t have to pay upfront
The great thing about using TK health insurance is that you just need to go to the doctor and show your TK health insurance card. You don’t need to pay anything in advance. The doctor will sort it out with TK directly. TK also won’t ask you any questions. They just pay. So, I never have to worry about the cost when I visit a doctor.
In case anything is not covered by TK, the doctor will let me know in advance so that I won’t get a bad surprise afterward. For example, TK health insurance covers the basic body check. But I want to have a more comprehensive one. So, I pay extra for it.
Your TK contribution is tied to your income
In general, public health insurance is less risky. You pay less when you earn less. For example, during my parental leave for 1.5 years, I didn’t have a salary but I was still covered by TK for free. My colleague who has private health insurance had to pay 600 Euro a month during her parental leave.
Besides, it is also cheaper if you are a student, unemployed, or retired. It doesn’t get more expensive when you are older or when you have pre-existing conditions.
TK Covers your dependent family members for free
This is one big advantage of having public health insurance in Germany. We have two children and we are all insured under TK. We do not need to pay extra for our children. With public health insurance like TK, your dependent spouse and children can be insured without additional cost.
TK insurance fulfills your visa application requirement
If you need a visa to live in Germany, one of the visa application requirements is to have valid health insurance. I did have health insurance from my home town Hong Kong. Unfortunately, my health insurance was not accepted when I applied for my visa in Germany. I was told that I must have a recognized health insurance policy in Germany. My university in Berlin enrolled me in TK at that time. I got my visa and I am happily insured with TK ever since.
Good customer rating
TK is one of the largest and most popular public health insurance companies in Germany. I am with TK for 11 years now and I am very happy with its services. In fact, my whole family is insured with TK.
TK is also rated as the best health insurance in Germany in a review done by Focus Money (for 15 times in a row!). You can see the full review report here, which compares TK with many other health insurance companies in Germany.
Health insurance coverage abroad
You are also covered by the TK health insurance if you travel to other EU countries. Just show your TK insurance card. And you can receive the same treatment as other local people in that foreign country.
You can choose your doctors
As long as the doctors have a contract with the statutory health insurance fund. This includes general practitioners, dentists, and any other specialized doctors.
Call service 24/7
This service is called TK-MediCall. You can call and get answered if you have any questions about medicines. You can also use TK-FamilyMediCall if you have any questions about your child’s health. If you need medical advice when you are abroad, you can use TK-TravelMedicall. It can also help you to find a local doctor who speaks English. The best thing is that you can use these call services also during non-office hours when your doctor’s office is closed.
Five years ago, I had a very bad stomachache at work and was sent to the hospital by my employer. I stayed three nights in the hospital and did a lot of tests there. Almost all these costs are covered by TK. I only had to pay a small fee of around 10 Euro per night.
Not to mention that I have given birth 2 times in the hospital. And almost all my pregnancy costs including the birth preparation class, giving birth, postnatal gymnastics class, etc. are all covered by my TK insurance.
Simple website and processes
TK’s website is simple and easy to use. You can find all the information you need there, in English. Their process is also easy to understand. The app is very self-explanatory. It is really the opposite of the German bureaucracy and super expat-friendly. Most of their services are available online and very convenient.
Online appointment with a doctor
I just found out about this cool function recently. With the TK-Doc app, you can have an online video consultation with a doctor directly via your phone. This service is available during the week from 8am to 11 am, and from 5pm to 8pm. So, you can use this service also when your usual doctor’s office is closed.
With the online consultation, you can also get your sick note and medical prescription digitally if needed. You can even get your medicine delivered to your home!
In the TK-Doc app, you can also use the chat function to get advice from a doctor if you prefer to type. So, no more long waiting time at the doctor’s office! You can stay at home and focus on your recovery.
I haven’t tried to use this service yet but I am definitely interested in this. I will update this TK review once I have tried this out!
TK appointment service
If you need to see a doctor but have no time to make an appointment (or not sure how it works), you can call TK. It will help you to make an appointment, free of charge. This is useful if you have just moved to Germany and don’t have a doctor yet. Or if you are not able to speak German, especially on the phone. Of course, if you need an appointment urgently, you should contact your doctor or visit your doctor’s office directly.
You can also use TK’s website to find a list of doctors in your area who speak your language. Simply enter your postal code and pick your language. You will then see a list of doctors with their contact details.
TK bonus program
I need to tell you about the TK bonus program in this review. I just started using this last year and I can highly recommend this. TK wants to encourage us to have a healthy lifestyle. So, we can collect points when we engage in healthy activities that are recognized by TK. For example, doing a body check, preventive care, vaccinations, joining some sports events, and even having a sports membership, etc. These points can then be used in the form of cash.
I was pregnant last year. So, I joined different courses for maternity care like pregnancy preparation class, postnatal gymnastics class, etc. I have easily collected enough points for the cash bonus and I got 72 Euros! I can confirm that it really works! Last month, I did a comprehensive body check at a doctor and I paid 50 Euros out of pocket (TK pays for the basic checkup but I want a comprehensive one). I sent my receipt to TK and got all the 50 Euros back in my bank account. I still have 22 Euros left in my balance for other use. These are all managed inside the TK app. I didn’t need to send any paper!
Even though I am not pregnant this year, I can collect points easily. For example, I got some points already for doing professional teeth cleaning and also for my vaccination. These are things that I anyway will do, even without the TK bonus program. I am really glad that I discovered this program and I can take advantage of it.
The TK app
Besides the bonus program, the TK app is really great to use. I can finally feel that digitalization is slowly progressing in Germany. With this app, I can see all the prescribed medicines I bought in the past. It also showed me all my history about when I visited a doctor, which doctor was it, and what treatment was done. Based on my age and medical record, the TK app also suggests me checkup like cancer screening.
Besides, you can also submit or download documents like your membership certificate directly from the app. There is also a mailbox in the app where it keeps all the communication between me and TK. I can easily contact TK by writing a message there. No post is needed!
Activities tracking with TK-Fit
In the TK app, there is also a function called TK-Fit. You can connect TK-fit with data sources like Fitbit or Google Fit, etc. TK-fit can then record your activities like walking, running, biking, etc. You can also set a goal to motivate yourself to move more. The best thing is that these activities can then be used in the TK bonus program as money. So, you can even earn money by doing sports which is anyway good for your health!
Cons of TK health insurance
TK may not be for everyone
Firstly, not everyone is eligible to take public health insurance. TK can refuse your application if you are not compulsorily public insured (pflichtversichert). For example, it can be hard to get approved if you are from a non-EU country and you move to Germany for self-employment. So, in some cases, you may be forced to take a private health insurance policy.
Besides, for some people, private health insurance can be a better choice than public health insurance like TK. For example, high-income people who are young and healthy. Or those who do not plan to stay in Germany for the long term. In these cases, private health insurance can be much cheaper and have much better coverage.
We recommend Ottonova for private health insurance because of its 24 hours English support, fast reimbursement, and convenient app (no paperwork needed!). Ottonova also fulfills all legal requirements for your visa. You can check their plans here now.
Check out also this post for more differences between private vs public health insurance in Germany.
TK only pays for the basics
Like all the other public health insurance in Germany, TK pays for medical treatment that is considered necessary. If you want anything premium, you will have to pay the extra on top. For example, if you want to visit a private doctor, or you want a private room in the hospital or more dental coverage, etc. That is why it is a good idea to take a supplementary private health insurance policy that gives you these extra coverages.
Dental coverage from public health insurance is really basic and not sufficient in my opinion. Talking from my own experience, I have paid too much out of pocket for dental treatment and cleaning. Now, I have additional private dental insurance that can cover the cost better.
I recommend getting supplementary dental insurance from Ottonova due to its English support, fast reimbursement, and cheap price. You can also use this website to compare different packages of other supplementary private health insurance.
A co-payment is needed when you buy medicine
With TK, even though you do not need to pay for your doctor, you will still need to pay for your medicine. On the contrary, many private health insurance policies will cover your prescribed medicine costs.
For over-the-counter medicines, the cost will usually not be covered by private or public insurance companies. Check this post for more details about pharmacies and medicines in Germany.
You will still need a private travel insurance policy
Even though TK covers your medical expenses in other EU countries, the coverage has its limits. TK will cover emergency or any necessary medical care abroad. The cost may be fully covered, or only partially covered. It is because you will still need to pay the same cost that a resident in that foreign country would be charged. So, depending on the country, you may get less reimbursement compared to what you would have gotten in Germany. Besides, medical evacuation from any foreign countries will not be covered.
So, if you are a frequent traveler, especially if you travel often outside of the EU, you would still need to get a private travel insurance policy. In our case, we have a credit card that includes travel insurance. For more details, check this out: Free Credit Card in Germany – Top 6 For Travel and Cashback
TK review: Who is eligible?
If you are a student studying a degree program in Germany and you are under 30 years old, you are entitled to public health insurance and you can choose TK.
Besides, you must have public health insurance in Germany if you earn less than 64,350 Euros per year or 5,362.5 Euros per month (Year 2021). In this case, you can also go for TK health insurance.
If you earn more than that, you have the option to choose private health insurance. But you can also stay with TK if you want. Check out here to see what is better for you: Private vs Public Health Insurance: What is Better for Expats in Germany?
TK review – How to sign up?
We recommend using the free service from Feather to sign up for TK public health insurance. It takes only a few minutes and the sign-up process is 100% in English. Feather also provides English support in case you have any questions.
Sometimes, your employer may help to enroll you in public health insurance. Note that you have the right to choose your desired insurance provider. Just let your employer know in advance.
Once approved, you will receive a TK public health insurance number and insurance card. Make sure to bring this card with you whenever you visit a doctor in Germany.
TK review – Can you change from your current insurance to TK?
If you are with your current public insurance for more than 18 months, you can change to TK with a 2 month notice period.
If you have private health insurance now, it is more complicated. You can only change back to public health insurance like TK if you earn less than 64,350 Euros per year. And if you are over 55 years old, it is almost impossible to change back to public health insurance.
The reason behind this is simple. If you can change from private to public health insurance as you want, all the young, healthy and good earners will choose private health insurance. They will only change back to public health insurance when they are old and getting sick. It means that people who have public health insurance will be mostly old, poor, and unhealthy. The healthcare system will not work anymore this way.
So, that is all I want to say about TK in this review. When you are looking for health insurance in Germany, the first thing you should know is if you are eligible to get private health insurance. If yes, is private health insurance or public health insurance more suitable for your individual situation? In case you choose to get public health insurance, I would highly recommend TK for you. It is cheap, simple, in English, and has great coverage and excellent customer support. You can sign up here now by filling the application form in a few minutes!
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I hope you learn more about TK after reading this review! Which health insurance company do you use in Germany and why? Leave a comment below and share your experience!
Moving to Germany or new in Germany? Check out our Support Page for all the resources you need!