Statutory insurance for refugees and which insurances they need in addition

Preface: This post was edited by Juliane Bäcker, LE.X.LATION Übersetzungen

When refugees come to Germany and their situation has stabilised a little after a while they might be confronted with several questions concerning insurances. This article provides some information for everyone who is unsure how insurances work in Germany.

How does the insurance sector work in Germany?

First of all it is necessary to know that it is divided into two parts – statutory (legal) and private insurances.

While the statutory insurance is based on a few specific, legally regulated business fields, the private sector (which is also regulated) offers an enormous variety of insurance and financial products – some very useful, some not as much. Private insurances typically complement the basic protection of the statutory insurance. The numbered instances of substitutional insurances (e. g. health insurance) do not play a major role for refugees. The only important cases which would have to be considered in this regard would be an entrepreneurship or an employment with above-average salary. As this is not encountered a lot, this article does not contain more information on that. People in need of advice in this matter should seek separate independent consulting.

What is the statutory insurance situation in Germany for refugees like?

As long as refugees are going through their (protracted) asylum procedure and residence does not exceed 15 months, they are basically not insured at all. They are only entitled to free medical emergency treatment, which has to be authorised by social services department beforehand, however. Although the pilot project called “Bremer Modell” – including an electronic health card for refugees which allows them to consult a doctor as needed – was adopted by national law in October 2015, it has not been started yet, because several public agencies are still quarrelling about the costs.
When refugees exceed the 15-months-period they obtain a status comparable to a welfare recipient with entitlement to healthcare based on the service of statutory health insurance.
Unfortunately this is the end of the story already. Refugees principally do not have any more insurance protection.
In a few cases – like with some kinds of voluntary work (and even then only if the contracting authority reports the participants correctly) – they rely on the protection of the statutory accident insurance. But the services or payments they would expect to receive are not as comprehensive as for regular employees in cases of work-related accidents. The same applies for school children, both at school and on the direct way from home to school and vice versa.
Only when refugees start working in a regular employment that is subject to social security contributions they are fundamentally covered by the German insurance schemes such as health and nursing care, pensions and unemployment insurance. But even if so – there are still some loopholes that need to be closed.

Which insurances do refugees need in addition?

First of all everybody should hold a liability insurance policy. This applies to all cases, whether a refugee only just arrived or has passed the 15-months line or is (legally) working or not. According to the Civil Law, a person who harms another person or damages another person’s property (or even any of his rights) is liable for those damages in unlimited amount. Situations that occur rather frequently in practice include damages to a car by a person riding their bike, cyclists injuring pedestrians or people damaging or dropping displayed items in stores. Every damage or injury to another person has to be compensated. Even if the person who caused the damage or injury is or will get insolvent, the damages can be claimed up to 30 years and all over Europe. If the person concerned makes some money within this period, it is the insolvency administrator’s duty to collect this money. A reasonable liability insurance policy will cost around 30–100 Euros a year, sometimes even a bit more, depending on the terms and conditions and whether or not a single person or a whole family (possibly even with their dog or cat) is insured.
When a refugee starts working in Germany they should inform themselves about the aspects of a disability insurance. When they set up their own household, a household insurance is usually recommendable. But as the need for insurances is very flexible, every significant change in a person’s life can make another insurance policy reasonable (e. g. a homeowners insurance) or even necessary (such as a car insurance if the person buys a car).
If you need further information, please contact the consumer advice centre or your trusted advisor.

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