AOK Health Insurance Sucks

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.


12 thoughts on “AOK Health Insurance Sucks

  1. CN Heidelberg January 13, 2013 / 11:11 am

    Oh my god. I am so utterly repulsed by the worker who mocked you about wanting your jobless lifestyle. That is hideous even by German customer service standards. If they are still employe, that is AWFUL. I hope they eat shit and you know what next.

    • Milly January 14, 2013 / 5:26 am

      I know, but I do believe he was verbeamtet… at least that was the impression I got from his supervisor. I’m sure he wasn’t even reprimanded but I was *super* thankful at least his manager was nice.

  2. ifs ands & butts January 13, 2013 / 2:04 pm

    Holy shit, that is unbelievable. I am with AOK too, but haven’t had to use it so much yet minus for my wisdom teeth. I’m so sorry to hear that. It sounds like Insurance companies are just assholes everywhere, but this is just extreme.

  3. Sara January 13, 2013 / 4:14 pm

    That is just crazy!

  4. GinBerlin January 13, 2013 / 7:27 pm

    I am so sorry:-(. We love TK very, very much too- so much we are paying to have it on hold while out of Germany. I have heard of other people having some issues with Aok, but what they did to you sounds incredible and keeps on being so.

  5. Milly January 14, 2013 / 5:31 am

    Thanks for the sympathy. I do feel the need to note that I actually still love German health insurance on a practical level, despite the bureaucracy involved with this one office (TK rules!). From what I understand, AOK wanted me to file paperwork for Harz IV so that *another* office could prove I had no income but I knew that was a worthless waste of time so I never did that (I’m a firm believer that foreigners who apply for welfare in Germany are assholes. Especially when they’re as capable of working as I am. But that’s just my (only) conservative view.) They don’t know how to prove a lack of income otherwise…. hence my lovely accountant who just filed a tax return for 0 Euros for me for a year :).

  6. Andrew December 11, 2014 / 1:52 pm

    I ahve been with AOK for some years now… and things looked ok for the sole reason that I hardly visit the doctor. But a friend told me that being insured with AO is like gambling with your health and, he went ahead to tell me a whole lot of issues with the AOK.My eyes are opened now. I just going to terminate my contract with AOK ASAP

  7. ryk January 23, 2015 / 10:37 am

    don’t hesitate to apply for ALG2 if you are in need. like you said, you are able to work and you want to work,theres no problem with taking advantage of “HARTZ4”. it’s planed for people who struggles, who got into private trouble of just can’t find their way at the moment. In germany we prefer catching falling people BEFORE they hit the ground. imo theres a huge missunderstanding of wealthfare in the us,england etc. they CREATE their homeless by crazy laws and economic and sozial demands…just check this dudes storry, I got angry and was realy close to tears while watching it…He didn’t do anything wrong, he was just human.I don’t know anyone who would have acted any other way…

    • Milly January 23, 2015 / 4:29 pm

      Hi Ryk,
      Thanks for the post. As I grew up in the US under Tommy Thompson’s welfare to work program, I know first-hand the awfulness of the welfare system there, and have several friends who have used the Hartz4 program to their great advantage here in Germany as a so-called “uebergangsloesung.” My point with this post, however, was to show the ridiculousness of AOK, who seemed to be incapable of understanding my situation. As a married woman, I could not apply for insurance, nor for Hartz4 because my husband had income. That he took that money with him when he left did not matter; I had to wait at least a year during our separation before AOK would not consider his income in my request for benefits and though I wanted to work (I would not have been eligible for H4, because I am a foreigner on a limited visa), my visa stipulated I needed health insurance to work and to work I needed my visa. A “Teufelskreis” as you say in German. I won’t lie, I’d recommend H4 to those in need but I would never ever want anyone to have to deal with AOK. They are the least sensitive beamters I have ever encountered.

  8. sat November 20, 2015 / 1:09 pm

    Hi , can you please share how you got rid of the huge amount AOK billed you. did you hired a lawyer? I am in a similar situation but with TK (yeah, beleive it, beurocracy is everywhere). Here is my story:
    i am a international student who is insured with TK for about 3 years now. from feb 2015 to aug 2015 i did a student internship with a company where the company paid my health insurance instead of me. after I finished my internship, TK sent me a letter suggesting me to declare my status as a student (to continue on a student health insurance plan). However, due to my change in address, I unfortunately didnt get that and they assumed that I somehow got filthy rich or something but in reality I am even broke than before as there is no source of income yet (i am in last semester of my course.) the shock comes, when i checked my bank account and TK has deducted about 2200 euros (which was all i had) from my account and upon calling they told me that I should have responded to the letter tehy sent me. anyways, i am still a student and was a student when they charged me with this insane amount and took it from my bank account without my authorization. I want to know that how much does a lawyer cost in such kind of situations and what are the chances of me getting my money back ( i am ready to pay whatever fine, which is appropriate for late notification to them that i am and was a student throughout this period. thank you in advance.

    • LiebeMilly November 21, 2015 / 8:18 pm

      Hi Sat,

      You might ask at your international office. I did not have to hire a lawyer but I wrote them at least three letters. Most of the time, it’s just about finding the right bureaucrat to help.

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