What happens to my health insurance during job loss
Woman going through an interview after experiencing job loss

What happens to my health insurance during job loss

Summary: if you go below a certain income while on private health insurance, you’ll have to switch back to public health insurance. So, what happens during job loss? In this article, we’ll talk about when you’ll need to switch back to public health insurance and when it’s possible to stay on private health insurance. 

Job loss due to general unemployment factors

If you’re no longer working and are on unemployment benefits, then you’ll almost always be required to switch to public health insurance if you were on private health insurance. The only exception to this is if you were insured on private health insurance for the last five years without ever being on public health insurance. If that’s the case, you’re freed from the obligation to be publicly insured. 

Please keep in mind that the special tariff for those who are unemployed is a set price, so there is a chance that this set price might be higher than what you were previously paying for health insurance. By gaining employment, your insurance will readjust. 

It’s important to notify your private health insurance provider the moment you’re no longer insured to make sure that your insured status is switched carefully. If you are currently a Feather customer, you can do this by booking a call with our support team.

The rules change if you’re over 55

If you’ve experienced job loss due to general unemployment factors and you’re 55 years old or older, then there is an additional requirement that you were voluntarily insured for at least half of the past five years you were on private health insurance. 

What happens with Arbeitslosengeld II? (Category 2 unemployment)

Category 2 unemployment is specific to people who experience job loss and are in need of government assistance. This is often called Hartz IV. An example of someone on Hartz IV would be someone who has been working as a museum tour guide and needs to walk and be on their feet for their job. Eventually, this person develops early arthritis, which causes them to have an occupational disability that no longer allows them to be a museum tour guide anymore. 

This person could quit their job and wait three months for unemployment payments (there are very strict requirements for this, but generally speaking, only EU citizens who have been working for a minimum period of time are entitled to these benefits). This is significantly less than what the tour guide was being paid before, but they can go to the Agentur für Arbeit to get a scholarship for retraining in a field that would allow them to work while sitting down and not irritating their arthritis. 

Programs like Career Foundry currently can be chosen for those on unemployment and looking for a career change because of anticipated occupational disability in the future. 

During this period of time, a person can also choose to stay on their private health insurance. 

What are things to expect when switching back to public health insurance

If you cannot stay on private health insurance, there are a few things you’ll need to watch out for. 

The first major difference many people notice is that waiting times are longer than when you were on private health insurance. While this shouldn’t be the case, many doctors’ offices get more income from private patients, so they tend to leave appointments open for them that aren’t bookable by public health insurance holders. 

The customer service might change at your doctor’s office. One of our team was forced back onto public health insurance after freelancing, and she mentioned to us how the receptionists were less friendly to her after her insurance status changed from privately to publically insured. While this is also something that shouldn’t technically happen, it still does. 

You won’t be able to see specialists as needed. In order to see a specialist doctor, you’ll need to get a recommendation from your doctor to see a specialist. There are sometimes long waiting times for certain specialists, so it’s good to get health problems taken care of as soon as they arise. 

Coverage restrictions will also apply to more areas. For example, if you do a yearly breast cancer screening, health check-up, or blood test, these will no longer be covered by your health insurance, depending on your age. Depending on the doctor, these will cost you about €22 (Severity factor of 1.8) for a blood test, €20-€60 for a breast cancer screening, and a general health check-up is sometimes partially covered and can cost anywhere from €185 to €520 depending on what they do. 

Are there ways around this?

Sometimes, but you’ll need to speak with your doctor to see which options are available to you. If you’re having immediate pain and symptoms, your public health insurance provider will generally accept these claims as necessary medical procedures. Your family’s health history can also contribute to what is covered by your public health insurance provider or not. 

Each of these is going to be checked individually, so it’s important to speak with your doctor and health insurance provider before booking appointments that you wouldn’t be able to pay for out-of-pocket.

Job loss and public health insurance

If you’re worried about what will happen to your public health insurance after losing your job, then there is little to worry about since you’ll be able to register for unemployment at the Agentur für Arbeit in Berlin where you will be able to get health insurance through the government. Just remember that your ability to claim unemployment and thus health insurance will change depending on your visa or residency status.