Ottonova Review: Private Health Insurance for Expats and Freelancers
13 July 2020
TL;DR - THE SHORT VERSION
If you’re looking to move to Germany - whether as an expat or a freelancer - a legal requirement of living in Germany and a must-have for your visa application is a local health insurance policy.
Ottonova is one of the leading private health insurance option for expats and freelancers in Germany, because they’re:
The only German health insurance that officially supports English
Approved by the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner's Office) for visa applications
Great value with special discounted expat tariffs
Better coverage than public healthcare including dental, vision and more
Available 24/7 with personal concierge service in English
100% digital with easy online doctor’s visits and fast claims
Covered for worldwide travel, both within and outside the EU
Have a specific question about your situation? Find out if Ottonova is the right fit for you with a free personal consultation over the phone - in English, for free. You get to pick the day and time - no extra commitment required.
Not sure if this is the right fit for you? Speak with Feather Insurance about your options by clicking on this link and booking an appointment. Feather helps English-speaking expats organize and maintain all types of insurance. This includes both private and public health insurance options (including Ottonova), as well as public liability, household contents insurance, and more.
As the saying goes, your health is your wealth, and there’s no room for miscommunication or cheap shortcuts when it comes to matters as important as your well-being.
In this Ottonova review, we'll be explaining why Ottonova is one of the best choices for comprehensive German private health insurance.
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How Does Private Health Insurance Work in Germany?
First, let’s take a quick look at how private health insurance works in Germany. If you’re a resident of Germany - whether you’re an expat or a freelancer - you must have valid health insurance for the entire time that you’re living here.
Proof of valid local health insurance is also a must-have requirement of the Foreigner’s Office (Ausländerbehörde) when you’re applying for a Freelance Visa or a Work Visa (officially known as the Residence Permit for the Purposes of Employment), which is a step that most expats and freelancers will have to take to live and work in Germany.
Local health insurance in Germany can be broken down into two types:
Public health insurance: a.k.a. ‘statutory insurance’ or gesetzliche Krankenversicherung (GKV), and
Private health insurance: private Krankenversicherung (PKV)
Your eligibility for either type of health insurance in Germany depends on your work status and your salary.
Who is Eligible for Private Health Insurance in Germany?
As of 2020, if you’re…
A freelancer (Freiberufler): Yes, you can have private health insurance.
Self-employed (Selbständige): Yes, you can have private health insurance.
An employee earning more than 62,550 EUR/year before tax (Brutto*): Yes, you may choose between public or private healthcare in Germany.
An employee earning less than 62,550 EUR/year before tax (Brutto*): No, you must be enrolled in the public healthcare system. However, you can still top-up your public health insurance with additions such as dental or hospital coverage from private insurers like Ottonova - a smart investment that could save you more money in the long run.
* In Germany, you’ll see two different total amounts on your payslip: Brutto and Netto. Brutto is your gross income, or your total earnings before tax and insurance(s) are deducted from your pay. Netto is your net income, meaning the total amount left after these deductions have been taken out. In other words, Netto is the money that ends up in your bank account each time that you get paid.
If you have the option to choose between public and private health insurance in Germany, there are many resources available to help you compare the benefits of each, like this Ottonova article here.
No two people are the same, so it's worth investing some time to research if your chosen type of health insurance is the right fit for you.
Some deciding factors that should weigh into your decision are:
Any pre-existing medical conditions
Your general level of health
Family status (single, married or with children)
Your desired level of coverage
How long you plan to stay in Germany
If you're unsure if private health insurance is the right fit for you, Ottonova has a free phone consultation service that answer your questions.
It only takes 30 seconds to book, and their experts will answer any questions about your personal situation in Germany, and guide you through your best available options. Easy!
Benefits of Private Health Insurance in Germany
“So why choose private health insurance in Germany?”, I hear you ask. Good question!
There are several upsides to having private health insurance in Germany, including:
Private health insurance covers a wider range of treatments, including vision and dental care. Most private insurers will cover costs for glasses, contact lenses or even vision correction surgery, as well as dental cleanings, fillings and root canals.
With public health insurance, only the bare minimum is covered for dental health, and there are no reimbursements for glasses or contact lenses.
Greater access to doctors and specialists
With private health insurance, you easily gain access to all doctors across Germany because you’re able to visit both public and private clinics, doctors and specialists. There are many doctors and specialists who only accept privately-insured patients, so you effectively double your chances of finding the best possible care.
Privately insured patients are given priority status, which comes with perks such as shorter waiting times and more options to see a doctor who speaks your native language.
More privacy and choice as an inpatient
If you find yourself in hospital, private healthcare like Ottonova gives you more privacy, more choices and a higher level of attention as an inpatient. All Ottonova plans include cover for private rooms and the option to choose your attending physician in the hospital, including the chief physician.
Personalized and cheaper costs
Unlike public health insurance which charges everybody the same percentage of contribution fees, private health insurance costs are specifically tailored to you and your age, health, and desired level of coverage. In particular, expats who aren’t intending to stay in Germany long-term (i.e. longer than 5 years) could save quite a fortune by opting out of extra premiums that are set aside for old age, like with Ottonova’s First Class Expats plan. More on how that works below.
So, What is Ottonova?
Ottonova is a German private health insurance provider with special discount rates for expats.
They’re the first and only official English-speaking health insurer out of the 40+ private health insurance providers in Germany. Ottonova is 100% digital, with its own dedicated smartphone app.
With just a few taps on your smartphone, you can easily book doctor’s appointments, chat with your Personal Concierge in English, claim reimbursements, and even see a doctor online via video call.
Currently, Ottonova offers private health insurance for non-EU foreigners with their First Class Expats plan. For EU expats, Ottonova offers their full-coverage First Class, Business Class and Premium Economy plans.
If you’re unsure about which plan will suit you best, it takes less than a minute to book a free personal consultation call with Ottonova’s friendly English-speaking experts, who will talk you through your best options - all with absolutely no obligations on your end.
Is Ottonova accepted by the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Office)?
Yes. Ottonova private health insurance is approved as proof of valid local health insurance for visa applications by the Foreigner’s Office (Ausländerbehörde).
For your German private health insurance to be accepted by the Ausländerbehörde or German embassies and consulates, your health insurance must comply with section 2 of § 257 SGB V and be approved by BaFin (Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht), the stringent German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority.
Our friends have used Ottonova for their Freelance Visa applications with no problems. Ottonova themselves also guarantee on their website that all their insurance plans are visa-compliant, so that’s one less thing to worry about as you prepare to settle in Germany!
The only official English-speaking health insurance in Germany
If you’ve ever lived overseas in a country where you don’t speak the language, you’ve probably had a frustrating moment or two when you couldn’t easily access the help you need. Luckily for those of us who lead our conversations with “Entschuldigung, mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut…”, Ottonova is the first health insurer in Germany that officially operates in English.
That means you’ll have access to 24/7 English customer care, as well as a friendly support team who will readily walk you through every process step-by-step over the phone in English. They also offer translated English guides for important documents like your contract, unlike any other German health insurer.
With Ottonova, you’ll never be left in the dark about your inclusions and benefits, so you can take advantage of all the services that you’re eligible for (hint: it’s a lot - read on below).
German health insurance with the best customer service (in English)
A small but significant fact about Ottonova is that many of their English-speaking customer service reps are also fellow expats living in Germany. While that might not seem like much, it’s genuinely nice to know that the person on the other side of the line actually gets exactly what you’re going through. It’s very likely that most of them have come across the same grievances, questions and issues in trying to navigate through everyday life in Germany.
Perhaps this is why Ottonova consistently maintains an ‘Excellent’ 4.4 star rating on TrustPilot, with many raving about the friendly, prompt and professional customer service. When it comes to something as important as your health, helpful and friendly customer service in English is invaluable.
As for my own personal experience? Perhaps I’ve become desensitized after many unsatisfying customer service experiences in Berlin, but I found Ottonova to be so responsive that I was genuinely surprised. When I first called to clarify a few questions about the First Class Expats plan prior to writing this article, I hung up to call back later as no-one was immediately available. This was during the peak of the Corona crisis in 2020, so I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t get a hold of somebody right away.
Just a short 20 minutes later, I was shocked when Ottonova personally called me back to ask if I needed any assistance, simply because I hadn’t left any of my details prior to hanging up. They wanted to make sure that I was okay, and asked if I needed any assistance. Not only were they quick to redirect me to an English-speaking team member, but my rep was extremely helpful, kind and made no effort to hurry me along while I listed out my many questions. It was a breath of fresh air to speak to somebody who just gets it.
Why is Ottonova is the best health insurance for freelancers and expats in Germany?
Other than the fact that Ottonova is the first and only official English-speaking health insurance provider in Germany with possibly the best customer service, there are more great perks that make Ottonova stand out among other private health insurers.
100% Online Health Insurance
Ottonova is Germany’s one and only all-digital private health insurance provider, which means everything is done 100% online through the Ottonova app, with no paperwork involved! This makes processes faster and saves you more of your precious time.
The Ottonova app is available in English, with a clean interface and intuitive design. It’s split into four main tabs - Events, Concierge, Documents and Profile - keeping all your health records safely and neatly organized online.
The ‘Events’ tab shows a chronological timeline of all your interactions with Ottonova, including your past and upcoming doctor’s appointments and pharmacy visits, along with the related prescriptions, treatment plans and receipts. With a clear overview of your medical records, it’s easy to keep track of your health over time and remember when a routine checkup is due.
The ‘Documents’ tab includes an integrated scan function, so you can immediately upload and submit or store your invoices, medical certificates and sick notes securely in just a few seconds. Being able to submit anything without sticking a postage stamp on it is almost unheard of in Germany, plus you’ll also be doing your bit for the environment by going paperless. With all your documents safely stored in the app, you’ll never go digging around for a lost piece of paper in a panicked frenzy ever again.
Currently, the Ottonova iOS app boasts a rating of 4.8 out of 5, with the Android app also reporting happy users with 4.4 stars. Even if you’re not an Ottonova member, you can also download the app for free and take a look around for yourself.
Personal Concierge Service
Another key benefit of Ottonova health insurance for freelancers and expats is access to the personalized Concierge service, provided by their dedicated English-speaking team. Simply tap the ‘Concierge’ tab in your app, and you can instantly begin to discuss all your health questions in English with your Concierge at any time.
Want to see a doctor? Easy. Simply tell your Concierge where, when and what language you speak, and they’ll book an appointment for you with a doctor who speaks your language. Once confirmed, you’ll automatically receive a reminder on your personal Timeline in the ‘Events’ tab, and you can just turn up on the day with your Ottonova card in hand. Of course, you can also choose a doctor of your choice - and it’ll be 100% reimbursed.
Want to see a specialist? Kein Problem! When you’re insured with Ottonova, you can see a specialist without needing a referral (Überweisung) from a General Practitioner, usually within a few days.
Want to get preventative health checkups? No worries. Not only will the Concierge team advise and book relevant preventative check-ups for you, but they’ll also remind you about all the health-related services that are included in your cover so that you can really make the most out of your insurance. Always wanted to try naturopathy, or need some extra physiotherapy for your sore back? All you have to do is ask.
Want to see an English-speaking doctor online, right now? Yep, they can do that too - thanks to the digital doctor’s visit feature.
When you find yourself sick and fever-ridden in bed, the last thing that you want to do is drag your exhausted body halfway across the city to a doctor who speaks your language - only to be given a simple diagnosis in two minutes to just stay home, rest and drink tea. Of course, that’s exactly what you’ll go back home to do, but unfortunately, it’s an inevitable step for many expats who need the sick note for work or prescriptions for treatment.
Luckily, all of Ottonova’s private health insurance plans include telemedicine (a.k.a. digital doctor’s visit), so you can video call a doctor online, 365 days a year. Simply make a request to the Concierge team, and they’ll connect you to an English-speaking doctor - usually within just a few minutes - who can provide you with a diagnosis, treatment plan and even your sick note for work.
Of course, you should use your better sense of judgment to see if your condition is one that requires a physical visit to a doctor, but for milder cases like the common cold or flu, Ottonova’s digital doctor’s visit feature will give your body a chance to recover faster while you rest at home.
Fast Reimbursements for Private Health Insurance
In the past, doctor’s bills were a source of pain for many freelancers and expats with private health insurance in Germany because they’d have to pay the medical invoices out-of-pocket first, then wait around for their insurer to receive, process and reimburse their claim via snail mail - which could easily take up to a few weeks.
Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore for Ottonova customers. With everything done 100% online, you can upload and submit your medical invoices via the app in a matter of seconds. In most cases, you can expect to be reimbursed within just two working days - long before your bill is even due - so you won’t have to worry about being left with an empty bank account.
Health Insurance for Worldwide Travel
If you’re anything like the expats and freelancers I’ve met here, you’re probably also excited by the countless opportunities to easily get away and explore the rest of Europe and beyond on a whim. But as every savvy traveller knows, international travel without having proper insurance can be a costly mistake as overseas medical bills can rack up quickly and leave a hefty dent in your wallet.
If you’ve also been bitten by the travel bug, you’ll be happy to note that Ottonova extends their health insurance for worldwide travel, both within and outside of the European Union (EU). All of Ottonova’s health insurance plans come with unlimited cover for EU countries.
Outside of the EU, you’re protected for 2 months of consecutive travel on the First Class Expats plan, or an extra-generous 6 months of consecutive travel on their First Class, Business Class and Premium Economy health insurance plans.
By comparison, most other private health insurers offer just 1 month of coverage.
What’s covered with Ottonova health insurance?
Ottonova offers an impressive list of extensive coverage even with their cheapest First Class Expats private health insurance plan. Some of the most notable inclusions and benefits include:
100% covered for all doctor’s visits and specialist treatments
100% reimbursement for prescribed medication and dressings
Ability to see a specialist without referral from a GP
Dental care (2x dental cleanings each year and 100% coverage for fillings or root canals)
€300 worth of contact lenses or glasses every 2 years
€750 of cover for each eye for vision correction surgery (e.g. Lasik)
Emergency medical transport, like an ambulance or even helicopter rescue operations
Free choice of attending physicians in hospital, including the chief physician
Private 1-bed hospital room accommodation
100% reimbursement for naturopaths, up to €1000 each year
100% reimbursement for natural healing methods including massages, physiotherapy, heat treatments, light therapy, speech therapy, podiatry therapy and occupational therapy
100% reimbursement for prenatal courses and pregnancy/post-natal therapy
75% reimbursement for each psychotherapy session, with no yearly session limit
Unlimited coverage within EU and 2 months of coverage overseas
All travel vaccinations
Many of these inclusions such as dental, vision, alternative therapy and pre/post-natal therapies are unavailable or only partially covered under public health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung).
So if you’re looking for extensive coverage, shorter waiting times and higher priority in clinics and hospitals with English customer support to boot, Ottonova’s private health insurance is a clear winning choice for freelancers and expats alike.
Ottonova currently offers four different private health insurance plans starting at around €150/month for the First Class Expats plan for non-EU expats. EU expats can choose from their First Class, Business Class and Premium Economy plans.
Cheaper rates for non-EU expats
For non-EU freelancers or expats who plan to stay in Germany for less than 5 years, Ottonova’s First Class Expats plan takes this into account and cuts your monthly tariff to half the cost of normal tariffs, saving you thousands of euros each year.
The reason for this is actually quite straightforward. When you take out private health insurance in Germany, the basic cost of your insurance policy includes an extra premium each month to cover the inevitable rising costs of your healthcare as you get older—sort of like an old-age reserve for your potential future health issues.
Obviously, if you don’t plan to stay in Germany for longer than a few years, it makes no sense to keep building up a fund that you’ll never get to use. That’s why Ottonova’s First Class Expats tariff is only 50% of what you’d normally pay, and the smart economic choice for expats and freelancers who are here for just a few years. And if you do end up staying in Germany for longer than 5 years, no problem. You can switch over to Ottonova’s other policies at any time without having to take another health assessment.
Here's a 1-minute video from Ottonova to explain:
How to sign up for Ottonova health insurance
Signing up with Ottonova is really as easy as 1-2-3.
Book your free consultation call with an English-speaking Ottonova expert.
Get all your questions answered with no obligations on your end.
Sign up online with the Ottonova expert guiding you through each process in English step-by-step over the phone.
Ready to join Ottonova, or have a specific question you want to ask? It takes less than a minute to book a call.
With their strong focus on expats, genuinely helpful English customer service and impressive healthcare coverage, Ottonova is the best choice for freelancers and expats searching for quality private health insurance in Germany.
Whether you’re looking for private health insurance that will be approved by the Ausländerbehörde for your visa or just love the idea of saving time and money with their dedicated app and expat tariffs, Ottonova’s health insurance plans will be sure to protect you and your health so you can continue to invest your time where it really matters, like building up your new life as an expat in Germany.