I’m a huge fan of the German health insurance system. Income-dependent premiums? No co-pay? Kids free until they’re 18!?!? It’s one of the reasons I live here. I may have to pay more taxes but the amount I — a perpetually broke single mom — pay for health insurance here is so minimal, I don’t mind paying the extra little bit to the government for peace of mind that if I ever get hit by a car, I won’t go bankrupt from hospital bills. Say what you will about the “state of the art” health care in the US; I’d rather share a hospital room here than be denied an overpriced doctor’s visit because I lacked insurance (which, in the US, I would do, as a freelancer and all).
That love song aside, I have experienced the worst, most ridiculous bureaucratic bullshit from the public health insurance company AOK. Buyer beware: these guys and gals are insane. For a second, I was sympathetic to their plight, seeing as they’re required to insure people that other companies do not have to insure. But their operations are absurd.
Let me backtrack just a bit, to the year after my daughter was born. Until my maternity leave ended, I was a happy, happy, happy TK customer. I paid my premiums and beside that minimal amount — no joke — my entire pregnancy (ultrasounds included) and delivery and subsequent midwife check-ups and well-baby check-ups and vaccinations were covered so thoroughly that I paid an additional grand total of 40 Euros. Yep. 40. Sure beats the tens of thousands my “well-insured” friend in the US had to fork over after her child was born six months after mine. Anyway….
The ex was on AOK and when my maternity leave ran out and I didn’t have income, the kid and I went on his family plan. AOK wasn’t thrilled but in the end they had to accept me. We didn’t realize that we could’ve all switched to TK at that time because it was a big life change, but whatevs. I went to AOK. Then we went to the US for six months and I came back to Germany without the man. Jobless, homeless, penniless back in Germany was still better than the shit I was dealing with in the US. Right quick, I got myself a sublet and a job, which would have equaled money, except that to start working to get the money, I had to get my visa renewed, which required that I have proof of health insurance. No problem-o, right?
I called TK and they said that because of some arcane law, I could only go back to my previous provider. So I went to AOK. Several times. And each time, they denied my request. Why’s that? Because I didn’t have income. Of course I didn’t have income. I was jobless for over a year because I stayed home to take care of my kid. They didn’t believe me that I had separated from my husband, despite my legal documents attesting to the separation. They insisted that he was giving me money and I had to prove to them that I wasn’t getting any. How do you prove that you don’t have something that you don’t have? I was there three times in one week, all to no avail.
One gent was even so nice as to sit back in his chair and say to me, “Tell me, Ms. Lederhosen, how do you live without any money? Because I’d love to have a life like yours. No work and yet you still eat? Have a roof over your head? I’d quit my job right now if I could have a life like that.” Diva, smart cookie she is, threw a Matchbox car at the asshole before we called his supervisor who was a bit more helpful. She signed a “tentative” agreement to insure (pending paperwork) so that I could get my visa. Nice of her, right?
Except that agreement included only me. And although it’s against the law in Germany for a kid to be uninsured, for six months while we went back and forth with this nonsense, the Diva was uninsured. I took her to all her appointments, the doctors kept billing AOK knowing that they’d denied me, so certain were they that AOK was being ridiculous. Then, finally, I got a letter that made it official: my daughter would not be covered by them. They insisted her father, who was at that time in the US, should insure her even though his insurance didn’t cover shit that wasn’t in their HMO. I canceled my policy with AOK right then so that I could go to a reasonable (read: TK) health insurance company. Except that I had to wait another year for it to be effective, because German law also has it that you have to wait 18 months after a policy begins to switch companies.
Long story short: I found another solution for Diva elsewhere and stayed unhappily insured by AOK until just last month, when finally the transfer came through. I was soooo excited when this happened; I even booked all my dr. appointments for the month before I transferred just so AOK would have to suck up the costs.
AOK isn’t letting go without a fight, however. First they called me to win me back and when I told the salesdude about the situation with Diva, he said it was impossible — illegal even — for them to have denied her. No shit, Sherlock. Talk to your beamter buddies.
Now, they sent me a bill charging me 3,937 Euros PER MONTH for my health insurance coverage, dating back to 18 months ago. Why’s that, you ask? Well, because I have NO PROOF that I wasn’t earning income so how do they know I’m not some wealthy ass freeloader? Fucking awesome, AOK. Really rich. You just try and get 70,000 Euros out of my broke ass.That’s WAY more than my annual income, you ninnies, which you’ll find out soon enough.
Thank fuck I have a good accountant and lawyer. These insurance bureaucrats are just as insane here in Germany as they are in the US. At least at AOK. So expats, a word to the wise: TK is your friend. AOK is not.