Deductibles in private health insurance

Excess, co-payment, and contribution – in health insurance, there’s lot of different ways to describe the concept of a deductible. However, more important than the choice of word is what exactly it means for you and your wallet.

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What is a deductible?

A deductible is usually a fixed maximum amount you agree to pay for covered services before your health insurance kicks in to cover the majority or entirety of the cost.

As a general rule, the higher your annual deductible, the lower your monthly premiums, and vice versa. Employees in Germany usually choose a low deductible because employers contribute half of an employees’ health insurance premiums – but do not contribute towards deductibles. Self-employed people often choose higher deductibles in return for lower premiums.

At ottonova, we do things a little differently. We calculate deductibles as a percentage of medical bills up to an annual maximum – meaning you only pay a small amount per bill and do not have to pay a high deductible before you receive coverage. In every other tariff than the Expat tariff, we also give you a choice of deductibles so you can tailor your health insurance to your needs and circumstances.

You have health insurance so that it can pay your healthcare costs when you’re sick. There are two ways to manage this. First, you can take out a policy that pays 100% of the costs of healthcare but then your monthly rate is higher. Alternatively, you and your insurance provider can agree on a deductible – a mechanism through which you pay a share of the costs you incur which lowers your monthly costs and stabilizes premiums.

Deductibles exist in one form or another in almost all insurance policies, so they aren’t just a recent invention by private health insurance providers. In the public health insurance system, policyholders often have to make out-off-pockets-payments e.g. for prescription medicines and certain treatments. From a co-payment when you have dental prosthetics fitted to prescription charges, these payments can really add up.

Other terms used for deductibles

What are the different types of deductible?

Private health insurance providers often structure deductibles in different ways. In most cases, however, deductible structures follow one of three models:

Comprehensive deductible: The standard model in most other private health insurance tariffs.

In this commonly used model, you agree to pay your insurance provider a general deductible for each calendar year, no matter what benefits you claim. In most cases, you’ll agree on a fixed amount.

A comprehensive deductible is therefore an amount you pay – perhaps €500 per year – and only once you’ve paid that amount in medical bills does your insurance step in to cover further costs. This means it’s entirely possible that you’ll receive a doctor’s bill for €500 in January and have to pay it all yourself. However, your insurance will cover all further bills for the rest of the calendar year.

Example 1: Common private insurance tariffs

Comprehensive deductible: Max. €500.00 per year

Doctor’s bill:

Amount due: €500

Deductible: €500


Reimbursement: €0

In this case, you would cover the full €500.00 yourself.


Example 2: Common private insurance tariffs

Comprehensive deductible: Max. €500.00 per year

Specialist consultant’s bill:

Amount due: €400

Deductible: €400

Prescribed medication:

Amount due: €150

Deductible: €100

Physical therapy:

Amount due: €250

Deductible: €0


Reimbursement: €300

In this case, you would cover €500.00 of the total costs of €800.00.

Non-comprehensive deductible

The advantage of private health insurance is that you can adjust certain elements of your insurance cover to suit your needs. One such element is your deductible, as some insurers will allow you to apply your deductible to certain medical coverages only. This often involves a comprehensive deductible applicable to these medical coverages only.

Example: You agree that your deductible will only apply to healthcare costs incurred through inpatient hospital treatment.

Percentage-based deductible: The ottonova way :)

Rather than a fixed amount, in the percentage-based model you pay a set percentage of the healthcare costs you incur. This means you pay a fixed proportion of your bills yourself. However, the total costs are capped, so once you’ve paid a certain amount, your insurance provider will step in to cover all healthcare costs. This type of deductible can also be applied to all services and benefits or restricted to certain areas only.

So, with a percentage-based deductible, you only ever pay a small proportion of your healthcare costs, such as 10% of each bill. The same goes for all other bills until you reach your annual maximum.

The benefits of a percentage-based deductible are obvious: you’ll only pay the maximum amount if you incur some €5,000 in healthcare costs. When you’re young, it’s unlikely your bills will run that high. So, in many cases, a percentage-based deductible costs less than a comprehensive deductible. If you incur lower healthcare costs, you’ll also pay less for your deductible.

Plus, you won’t have to deal with a large doctor’s bill before your insurance steps in, and instead spread your deductible over smaller amounts throughout the year. Paying your deductible in installments, effectively.

Example 1: ottonova tariffs

Percentage-based deductible: Deductible of 10%, maximum €500.00 per year.

Doctor’s bill:

Amount due: €500

Deductible: €50

Reimbursement: €450

In this case, you only pay €50.00 yourself.


Example 2: ottonova tariffs

Percentage-based deductible: Deductible of 10%, maximum €500.00 per year.

Specialist consultant’s bill:

Amount due: €400

Deductible: €40

Prescribed medication:

Amount due: €150

Deductible: €15

Physical therapy:

Amount due: €250

Deductible: €25


Reimbursement: €720

In this case, you only pay €80.00 of the total costs of €800.00.


Your insurance provider sets the deductibles for each tariff they offer. You can often select from several deductibles in each tariff.

Important note: A deductible is not a fixed payment you are obligated to make in full. If, at the end of a year, you have only paid €300 for your deductible, you certainly do NOT have to pay the remaining €200.

Deductibles at ottonova

At ottonova, we offer percentage-based deductibles in all tariffs but our students tariffs. (Our Study Free tariff for students is the only tariff without a deductible and the tariff Study Protect has a fixed deductible of €500. But only because they are limited in time of your studies.) We are convinced that the percentage-based model offers for the full-insurance the most benefits for you – and the best possible protection.

Here are some examples:



* If your insurance cover starts mid-year, the maximum account will be reduced accordingly.

We apply the patient contribution principle to outpatient and inpatient treatments. However, medical aids and outpatient psychotherapy are excluded. There are also a handful of benefit limitations. The terms and conditions for each tariff set out exactly what services ottonova covers and to what extent. 

Explore tariffs and options now

How does a deductible help me?

We have an interest in helping you stay healthy and hope to help you do just that for your entire life. A percentage-based deductible contributes to this in various ways.

From the very first day of your insurance policy, ottonova will cover the majority of your bills. That’s good for your bank balance, because you won’t have to pay your entire deductible in one go. Plus, you won’t have any reason to forgo treatments you need or skip check-up appointments due to financial concerns. 

In addition, a deductible shares the risk between the insurance provider and the insured person – with clear benefits for both parties. It gives the insurance provider premium stability because it enables it to estimate its policyholders’ healthcare costs more accurately. Meanwhile, privately insured people benefit from paying their deductible in smaller payments over time. 

More stable premiums benefit all policyholders – known as the insurance collective. However, the risk to the individual is still negligible as the deductible is capped, or limited, for each calendar year. 

Important to know: You don’t need to worry about costs spiraling out of control. In Germany, private health insurance providers are legally required to limit deductibles to a maximum of €5,000 per year. 

How do out-of-pocket payments support private health insurance?

If privately insured people are willing to pay small amounts themselves, it reduces administrative work for the insurance provider and means more funds are available to keep premiums stable for longer.

Who could benefit from a tariff with a deductible?

Important: Make sure you don’t select a deductible that is too high for you. Although increasing your deductible is usually straightforward, you might have to undergo another health examination if you want to lower it. In that case, any reduction in your premiums could be canceled out if your insurer applies a risk surcharge.

Tax implications

A private health insurance policy with a deductible also has implications for your tax bill, as your private health insurance premiums are considered a special expense in your income tax return. If you adjust your deductible to reduce your premiums, your tax savings will also be reduced. However, this doesn’t usually cancel out the benefits of reducing your premiums.

Does the public health insurance system also use deductibles?

Some public health insurance providers allow you to choose selective tariffs that include a voluntary deductible. You then cover a share of your healthcare costs, just like in the private system.

But also if you are insured in a regularly insured with public health insurances you often have out-off-pocket expenses e.g. for medication or dental prosthesis that really can add up.

Important note: If you opt for a selective tariff with a deductible, you will be tied to that insurance plan for the next three years.

What do I need to bear in mind when choosing a deductible?

Your deductible reduces your monthly premiums. Self-employed professionals and freelancers benefit most from a higher deductible, as they have to pay their health insurance premiums without employer contributions. A higher deductible allows you to reduce your premiums.

Employees, on the other hand, should bear in mind that their employer’s contribution is applied to their premiums – but not to their deductible. As a result, employees often choose a lower deductible.

The deductible you choose also has an effect on your income tax savings. You can include your private health and long-term care insurance premiums as special expenses on your tax return. But, if your deductible reduced your monthly premiums, your tax savings will also be reduced.

Got that?

It’s important to us that we explain deductibles to you transparently. So if you have any questions, we’re always here to help.

FAQs about deductibles

What is a deductible in health insurance?

The deductible is the portion of your health care costs that you, as the policyholder, bear yourself if an insured event occurs. If you choose a private health insurance plan with a co-payment, you agree to bear part of your risk yourself.

What types of deductibles are there?

The three most common models for health insurance are the absolute, modular and percentage deductible. You then pay either a fixed amount per year on all services, on certain services or a percentage of all bills up to a maximum amount.

What deductible does ottonova offer?

We are convinced that the percentage deductible offers you the most advantages. You want to know exactly what you get out of it? We'll show you with concrete examples.

Is a deductible worth it for me?

A deductible for private health insurance is especially worthwhile for self-employed people who pay their entire premium themselves. As an employee, you can also benefit from a tariff with a deductible, but you should carefully consider what level is appropriate.

Is the deductible also available for people with statutory health insurance?

The statutory health insurers can offer their members optional tariffs with a deductible. However, the decision to do so is binding for three years.

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Espen Markus Mjøs
HIER SCHREIBT Espen Markus Mjøs

Espen Markus - originally from Norway - is sales agent in ottonova's English sales team. He's in contact with potential customers every day and answers Expats' questions about German health insurance.

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HIER SCHREIBT ottonova sales experts

Our ottonova team of experts has over 40 years of experience in private health insurance and answers questions about it every day. What are old-age provisions and for whom does private health insurance make sense? What is the actuarial interest rate and which tariff is right for you? They know!

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