Deutsche Rentenversicherung Knappschaft-Bahn-See
Regionaldirektion Nord
Millerntorplatz 1
20359 Hamburg

Andreas Matthies
Phone: +49 40 30 388-51 21
Mobile: 0151 19 61 52 48


Compulsory membership or exemption from membership

Depending on their income (average wages), seafarers are either compulsory members of the statutory health and nursing care insurance or exempt from membership therein. The exemption comes with a (high) income exceeding the annual remuneration limit. This limit is not fixed and generally is increased annually.

A seafarer who

  • has an income below the annual remuneration limit, and
  • is employed on a seagoing ship flying the German flag, and
  • is domiciled in Germany or in a member state of either the European Union (EU) or of the European Economic Area (EEA),

is - by law - member of the statuary health and nursing care insurance. The seafarer will automatically be insured through his employer in a statutory health and nursing care insurance fund freely chosen by the seafarer from the variety of different insurance funds.

Membership and insurance contributions are unaffected by pre-existing illness

Membership and insurance contributions do not reflect the individual and personal health risk of the insured person (e.g., state of health, age, sex). In contrast to private health insurance the statuary health and nursing care insurance accepts also persons with pre-existing illness as members.

Membership starts on the day when the employment commences and ends, on principle, with the final day of the employment. The employer informs the health insurance fund about these dates.

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Insurance cover for relatives is included

Spouses or registered partners and children can be insured in the statutory health and nursing care insurance free of charge, unless:

  • their normal domicile is neither in Germany nor in a state with social security agreement (Europe);
  • they themselves are subject to compulsory insurance or voluntarily insured;
  • they themselves are either exempt from membership or have been exempted from compulsory insurance;
  • they are full-time self-employed; or
  • their total income does exceed one-seventh of the reference value of average income defined in Section 18 of Volume IV of the German Social Insurance Code (§ 18 SGB IV ). The income threshold of low paid work is 450 € per month.

Children under 18 can generally be affiliated. If they are not in employment, this deadline is extended to their 23rd birthday. If children are at university, in primary or secondary education or in vocational training they can be covered by family insurance up to their 25th birthday. However, in that case the provisions listed above – e.g., income thresholds - must be complied with.

Especially for European seafarers the family insurance is a real advantage, since family members are co-insured in the German statutory health insurance. Thus, the family members do not have to reside in Germany to receive the benefits.

If the relative is domiciled in a state with social security agreement (e.g. Spain), the doctor could be paid directly by the health insurance fund. The common practice is however that the insured person pays the doctor and then claims a reimbursement from the insurance fund.

If the relative is domiciled in Europe, the statutory insurance fund will bear the incurred costs.

Germany has entered into several social security agreements with states outside of Europe. Some cover only individual social security branches (e.g. pension insurance), other agreements cover all of the insurance branches. We have compiled a list of states that have entered into a social security agreement with Germany.

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