Techniker Krankenkasse health insurance – A long term review

I was as confused as you when first looking at health insurance options in Germany. The system is pretty damn complex. And then comes the time to pick a Krankenkasse. If you are reading those lines, you may have already decided to go for public one. TK or AOK are probably high on your list.

This Techniker Krankenkasse review is aiming at providing enough elements so you can make your own informed decision. It is based on 10 years-long membership, on real-life and on additional research. Dive in and feel free to leave questions in the comments.

Techniker Krankenkasse health insurance review Germany

Techniker Krankenkasse review: TL;DR

These points are the main take away of this Techniker Krankenkasse review:

  • It has been rated the best public health insurance option consistently for 14 years.
  • Techniker Krankenkasse does offer customer support in English, although it may take more time or be more difficult to get to an agent.
  • It is also the largest Krankenkasse with more than 10 millions members.
  • It is not the cheapest public Krankenkasse, but it is priced below national average.
  • I have been personally satisfied with it for 10 years (through 1 surgery, 2 pregnancies, as an employee, unemployed and as a freelancer).
  • Sign-up is easy and fast. You can even do it completely digitally and in English here too.

Still undecided? Full Techniker Krankenkasse review below 🙂


A few words of context

The largest public health insurance company in Germany is the Techniker Krankenkasse (TK). It was founded in 1884 as the “Registered Auxiliary Fund for Architects, Engineers and Technicians” and was only accessible to these professional groups until 1996. Today it is open to everyone and has around 10.5 million insured persons.

The headquarters of the TK is based in Hamburg and nationwide it employs almost 14,000 staff in its around 200 branches across Germany. It is not the cheapest but it still has a relatively low contribution rate at 15.3 percent and provides a strong service offer with good additional benefits, such as alternative medicine. 

Costs

As you might already know, fees for public insurance is set by law. They range between 14.80 – 16.30 % of your gross income but are capped at €56,250. Any income higher than that point will you pay the maximum possible fee (around €400 per month as an employee and €845 as a freelancer). You can expect to pay a minimum indirect or direct contribution of €180 per month unless you are a student under 30 years old. Here are more details:

Costs for TK health insurance for employees

If you’re employed, your contributions are half paid by your employer, with the rest coming out of your salary (7.3 – 8.3 % of your income). If you’re an Azubi (apprentice), you will also be treated as an employee, unless you earn less than €325 per month, in which case the employer must pay your health insurance.

If you are unemployed, you pay the minimum contribution at €180 per month, or you can use your spouse’s or parent’s health insurance for free. Otherwise, you can register as unemployed and the government will pay it for you.

Costs for TK health insurance for self-employed

If you’re self-employed you are responsible to bear the complete amount yourself. The costs are based on your estimated income (15,30% of that). You will either get reimbursed if you pay too much or have to pay more if you don’t pay enough. With a salary of less than €12,740 you only have to pay the minimum rate of €180. The same applies to a Minijob.  Please note that those costs are deductible.

Costs for TK health insurance for students

If you are a student under 23 years old you can expect to pay around €105 per month, unless you make less than €450 per month in which case you can use your parents’ or spouse’s health insurance. Otherwise, if you are an Erasmus student from an EU country you can use your EHIC card to temporarily cover you during the duration of your studies. However, if you were to start working you’d have to get on your own health insurance. For students between 23 and 30 years old, the same applies – you can use you relatives’ policy, otherwise you must contribute around 106€ per month.  The fee includes a contribution to nursing costs and is related to long-term care.

Students over 30 years old can expect to pay around €180 per month. If you’re a new arrival in Germany, you might need to get private insurance (like an incoming insurance) if refused by public providers. Students in preparatory or language courses are also not entitled to public health insurances providers like TK.

An additional contribution rate, typically less than 1 percent, is added to the state contribution by public health insurance companies – TK has one of the lowest at 0.7%. Unless you are freelancing, it is equally divided between employers and employees – just like the state contribution rate. 

Techniker Krankenkasse review: what’s covered, what’s not

Techniker Krankenkasse offers its policyholders a variety of advantages while providing a wide range of benefits tailored to each person’s situation and needs. It covers the cost of services like GP (general practitioner) appointments, basic dental care, in-hospital treatment and out-patient treatments, among others.

TK provides a good overall service. If you place value on additional examinations during pregnancy, extensive early cancer detection and professional tooth cleaning, you may find the services insufficient. A report by The Finanztip (in German) discovered that other providers offered a wider range of services here.

TK insurance covers the following:

  • GP Appointments. You can book an appointment with whichever doctor you like, via the TK Appointment service or directly with the doctor, as long as they are licensed to treat patients covered by public insurance. Any paperwork will be settled between the doctor and TK. Specialists appointments, medical telephone consultations and second medical opinions are also available.
  • Hospital Treatment. Hospital care is always included, besides a co-payment amount of €10 per calendar day with a maximum of 28 days per calendar year
  • Pregnancy. If both you and your partner are TK insured, artificial insemination costs an additional €250 per attempt. Pregnancy examinations are included only within the scope of the regional “BabyFocus” care contracts. A midwife on-call service can set you back a maximum of €250.
  • Basic dental care. The insurance covers basic dental examinations twice a year. Via the bonus program, you can also seal your front molars.
  • Medicine and Medical Dressings. Prescribed medical prescriptions are included, besides a co-payment of at least €5 (maximum €10) at a pharmacy.
  • Vaccination: Any vaccinations recommended by the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO), including those required for private holidays, are covered.
  • Screening examinations. Preventative examinations are also covered by the insurance scheme. From the age of 20, for example, you will be able to get bi-yearly checkups for skin cancer.
  • Glasses and lenses. Glasses/ lenses are also covered to a fixed amount between €10 and €113 per glass.
  • Free family insurance. Immediate family members, such as children or spouses, can be included in the costs of the insurance with no additional charges.
  • Travel insurance. The TK Health card includes a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) on the back which covers the cost of temporary and emergency treatment whilst travelling abroad in an EU country (as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland). It also has special contracts with hospitals in various European and non-European countries, to ensure you get the medical assistance you need everywhere.
  • Alternative medicine. Homeopathic treatments are available with participating doctors. If prescribed by a doctor, alternative medicine can be obtained with a maximum price of €100 and osteopathy can cost €40 per session for a max 3 sessions per year.
  • Prevention classes: You can even signup for certified courses (like Yoga for example) and have up to 80% of the fee covered.
Everything turns out ok, in the end. (Credits: Owen Beard via Unsplash)

My experience with TK in Germany

Everyday routine stuff

In my personal experience, I’ve found the system to include a a bit more paperwork than I’m used to, but besides that everything is handled for you pretty smoothly. In other countries, I’ve found that the interaction was solely with the doctor or medical practitioner as opposed to a third party administrator. That said, I can say I always felt in good hands when calling the hotline. The support agents are always patient and helpful.

For women’s sexual health, however, I’ve been told that the offering in Germany to be very behind what I’m used to elsewhere – with often expensive costs charged and not subsidized in the price of the health insurance. This would not be the case in Britain or in France where all contraception, such as the pill, or tests are free and easily accessible.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that basic dental examinations and some work is included in the price of the insurance. In other countries, this service might be subsidized or not covered at all.  However, devil is in the details. For dental treatments for example, some stuff is only partially covered and may super expensive. In this case, an additional dental insurance might be smart. Or else, only inferior materials may be covered.

I had all my wisdom teeth removed as well, and it all went fine.

I was a TK member as an employee, unemployed and as a freelancer, I didn’t find it had major impact with my relationship with them. They were helpful during transition periods.

Going to specialists

I cannot honestly report accurately on this from my personal experience as I needed to go see a specialist only twice during my time in Germany (still young and fit!). However, you will hear often that privately insured patient will experience less waiting times to see specialists (or GP for that matter). It is true that I had to wait a few weeks in my case for each appointment. That might stretch for months in some other cases, but that drawback is not unique to TK.

As I had consulted with my GP first, all my appointment with specialists were covered by TK with no issue.

Surgery

During that time with them, I also went through an abdominal surgery and never felt like a second-class patient or anything like that. The major highlighted benefit you supposedly don’t have with a public Krankenkasse is to have access to the “chief surgeon”. That’s reserved in priority to privately insured patients. This never really bothered me personally because the surgeon doesn’t have to be the most experienced in the room to do well. But yeah sure: maybe if I were privately insured, I could have stayed the night or gotten a better private room.

Parenthood

I also became a parent twice and again, never felt like the care and treatment was any worse because we were with TK. Both times we were able to have a single room (for both of us, a family room) after the births for some privacy and rest. There were also no problems transitioning both my kids under my own policy.

My experience with TK’s customer service

TK’s customer service is available 24/7 via online chat and over the telephone, with English language support for those who need it. A customer-oriented approach follows cases from the beginning up until completion with clear and detailed advice at every step. According to an internal assessment, the average waiting time was only 29 seconds. This is in line with my own experience but you may wait longer if you are waiting for English-speaking advisors.

If you’d prefer to discuss health concerns face to face, you can get advice at one of the many branches too. However, those branches tend to be spare in east Germany.

How to sign-up for Techniker Krankenkasse, fast

To get TK health insurance in Germany, you can use this form to fast track the process and 100% in English. You will receive an email confirmation of insurance within 2 working days. Then you just have to submit a passport photo for the insurance card, and receive it by post a few days later.


A quick look at the website: fairly bare-bones, but does the job

No Techniker Krankenkasse review would be complete without looking at the digital offering. First some good news: as wtih customer service, parts of the website including application forms are available in English. Unfortunately, the rest of the website, such as the members’ area (Meine TK), and all correspondence is officially in German. Support is available and easily accessible if you get stuck, this time in English too.

The English homepage consists of a very clean interface. It is customer-oriented and clearly structured featuring all the information you may need and spaces to click if you want to find out more. For instance, if you click “Learn more” you are automatically directed to a page that aims to encourage you to become a member of TK with simple facts and links to the application form.

The home page also features: frequently asked questions, ways to get in touch, links for the application form, as well as additional benefits to being a member.

In the members’ area, Meine TK, there is space for you to update your personal information and check your online messages – you can opt to receive all mail online. You will be notified by email of any new messages, which you can access by entering an SMS code. Documents or downloads can be submitted online – there is rarely the need to send something by mail. You can also download documents for your employer, the Ausländerbehörde (immigration office) and BAföG (state funding for students) straight from TK’s website.

Techniker Krankenkasse review – App: a genuine use case.

Besides the website, there is an app you can download for your smartphone to deal with any health insurance related concerns. The app has received a 4.8 star rating on the Apple store. 

Upon download, an interactive interface gives you the option of English or German before guiding you through the use of the app. 

After following the introduction you are then asked if you would like to “Start now” or “Become a TK member”. “Start now” leads you to data consensus forms and then a login form requiring your insurance number and password. 

You can easily download important certificates, documents for your employer, reorder your insurance card, contact support, participate in the TK bonus program and more. 

Extras: the TK bonus program

Reviewing the Techniker Krankenasse made me actually discover this, after 10 years at TK! . TK’s bonus scheme motivates members to stay fit and healthy, with a rewards scheme that enables them to earn money or support towards health services, such as dental care, massages, or gym membership, or even hard-cash! (Full list here). Every action taken to stay healthy can be credited to your points account, including the use of apps like GoogleFit, Fitbit or AppleHealth.

If you are using the TK-App, this is all very easily done. You need to first sign-up for this program via your account or calling the hotline.

Techniker Krankenkasse health insurance review: what are ratings saying?

Surveys conducted by the Techniker Krankenkasse indicated a 96.8% overall satisfaction rating with its services. It has been nominated as “Germany’s best Krankenkasse” for the last 14 years and ranked #1 in the both the Deutsche Finanz-Service test and the Testsieger-Berichte test.


Techniker Krankenkasse review – FAQ

Can I use Techniker Krankenkasse health insurance to apply for a visa?

Techniker Krankenkasse also fulfills all the health insurance requirements for a German visa application.

How much does the Techniker Krankenkasse cost?

It costs 15,30% of your income. The contribution is split between your and your employer. As a freelancer, you bare all costs yourself but they are deductible. As a student, you only pay around 105€.

Can I cover family members or relatives with my TK membership?

If those relatives don’t have any resources of their own, you can take them on free of charge. This would spouse, children, stepchildren, adopted children, grand parents.

Does the Techniker Krankenkasse provide service in English?

Yes, but it may take a little longer to reach English-speaking agents.

Do I get a free choice of doctors with TK?

Yes. You do not need to pick from an official certified list of certified doctors. However, some treatments may need preapproval from TK.

What does Techniker Krankenkasse health insurance cover?

TK covers all routine checks and appointments, as well as most treatments, at least in part. Only certain treatments are not covered by TK at all. Full list in this post here.

I hope this TK review helped on your way to pick health insurance in Germany. If you need to a bigger introduction to the topic of health insurance in Germany, check this page. Otherwise, feel free to ask questions in the comments.

2 Comments

  • Reply Jonas 24/11/2020 at 05:07

    Thank you a lot Bastien!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/11/2020 at 10:00

      Hey Jonas. No problem. : )

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