Exmatriculation, AOK, a ducked up life & etc!

I’m not sure if any international student’s life in Germany is a piece of cake, especially if you are over 30 years of age, and/or in your 5th semester. Mine isn’t easy either. But mine is slightly little more ducked up because I am still not used to reading (hardcopy) letters that different authorities (like the health insurance company in Germany) send to my mailbox. 

For the uninitiated:
  • AOK is a public health insurance provider in Germany.
  • Mawista is a private health insurance company, a cheaper alternative mainly for the students who are over 30 years of age.
  • “Exmatriculation” means de-registering a student from the university.
  • It is mandatory to have health insurance conforming to sections of German laws and the university needs to know it, always; failing which the student could be exmatriculated.

There are quite a few issues that I am dealing with, parallelly: physical health, my lack of knowledge about tax deductions, exemptions and filing returns, three jobs, two projects, time constraints and one of the people I work with who I now identify as toxic.  

Along with this, having a sort of semi-active social life is, umm, tough. 

So if you are a new international student, get this: Check your mails (the hardcopy ones, not the emails) every day. If it is in German, translate that and read. Do not procrastinate. There might be a letter which might mention a deadline, failing which you’d be fined; or a deadline failing to which, you would be exmatriculated.

Did you just wonder a little about being exmatriculated? Well, yes. I am almost exmatriculated if not already exmatriculated during the time I am writing this blog post.

Part 1: Depending on others’ words and the initial AOK fuck up!
So, what’s the start of the problem in my life? Answer: I turned officially 30! Yea, in March 2019. It is mandatory to have health insurance in Germany and for me, it is a public company AOK. They had sent me a letter saying that I would turn thirty and would comply not with the existing sections of law but with a different section. Also, they need to charge me more money. Like all other German letters, I did not open it and kept it safely in my cupboard. I had a personal chat with a representative of AOK and he mentioned, it is all right and things would be taken care of.

Part 2: Cancelling AOK!
A couple of months later, I visited their office enquiring why money was not deducted from my bank account. I was told I could move to a private health insurance provider any time and give AOK the details of my new provider. But, I need to stay insured with them for a period of three months after I decide to close it. I did that on June 6th!  They sent me another letter, which religiously I did not open. 

My term with AOK should have ended on September 6, 2019. I signed up with a private health insurance company Mawista on August 6, 2019. I was caught up with work and by the time I could give the details of my new insurance to AOK, it was August 18, 2019. 

Quite mischievously, my debit card was not working on August15th. I thought it might be some issue with the chip card or something. Venkatesh was with me, I borrowed some cash for the grocery and paid it off. I was a little concerned when my no bank operations were possible.

Part 3: AOK Deducted 3194.40€ & a frozen bank account.
On a little investigation online, I realised someone took out 3194.40 euros from my bank account; which is slightly more than my bank balance, thus resulting in a negative balance and a frozen bank account. In Indian money, it would translate to roughly more than Rs. 2,50,000.00. I kept calm. The someone who deducted the money from my account was AOK. 

Later on further inquiry, I got to know that they deducted all the money at once and forgot that I am a student. Since I am 30, I am not really expected to be a student and/or that I should prove it periodically submitting my semester registration details. I submitted my details and got a considerable fraction of money back on the last day of August 2019. Anyway, September 6th was the last day with AOK and I already had Mawista. How could things go wrong now? But wait! 

During October 2019, I saw some good amount being deducted very unsuspectedly. It was AOK again! This time my friend who speaks German and asks questions critically accompanied me, so that information does not get lost in translation. I got to know that Mawista offers health insurance and not care insurance. An international student in Germany needs to have both under section SGB V paragraph 5 of German laws.

Part 4: Nope, I can not leave AOK. And Mawista tariffs might not be legal!
Thus, Mawista, although cheap is just not legal for me. So, in simple terms, it is not logical of me to leave AOK. I said, “Okay!” because I am not sure if I had any other option. I approached Mawista and got a lukewarm response who further strengthened AOK’s claim. 

Oh yes, AOK deducted the money on the 15th of October. They also issued me a notice for a deduction on 14th of October 2019. The mail either did not reach me on the 14th or was peacefully in the mailbox when I was discussing this with AOK. 

A serious side question: Is Mawista or are the tariffs that most international students take from Mawista conform to the legal requirements? If no, why is there no awareness and what would be the consequences in case there is an issue?
Also, side note: There are advocates available for students, funded by Studentenwerk and Stura (student association). 

After running around in circles with Carl (the German friend), I had to settle for AOK. I have other issues to deal with, the 184.74 euros per month for AOK isn’t one of them. Ah yes, in the middle I exploded in front of a really scary looking lady at the Studentenwerk office only to discover that she is incredibly sweet when she starts laughing. 

So you think everything is settled, right? Wait. 

So! One of the three jobs that I do is that of tutoring. Yes, of all the things that I could have done, I chose to stand in front of a class full of students, fielding questions, answering them, keeping calm, adhering to regulations set, consciously trying not to appear rude or stupid even remotely. Today’s class starts at 11 in the morning. I got an email at 10:56 AM. 

Part 5: Exmatriculation email.
The email from the university stated that a letter was sent to me on July 29, 2019. The letter said that I would not have an insurance cover from the month of September 2019. I needed to go to their office and submit my new insurance papers by August 5, 2019. Since I did not react to the letter they need to exmatriculate me from the university, adhering to their regulations. But wait, was there a mail? Not that I read one. Maybe it never arrived. Maybe I never read and it is safely kept among the near one hundred unread letters sent to me in the last few months. 

I was inside the class, conducting it and wanted to have a meeting with the person who sent me the email. Her office hours ended at 12 and my class at 1 in the afternoon. I had a quick chat with the officer in charge of FIN international students and then wanted to have a chat with the international’s office. The lady at the international’s office is on leave and would come only next week. I went to the person’s office who sent me the email only to, umm, be refused to be talked with; because, obviously, it wasn’t her office hours.  

Maybe I am already exmatriculated or possibly everything would be all right by the next Monday. At this point in time, when I am writing this, I do not know.

But if you are an international student in Germany, draw as many inferences and lessons as you would want to from this episode of my life.

I sincerely thank Venkatesh, Madhu, Carl for being there with me, selflessly, all the time during this! 

About Anirban

I'm now a student of MS in Data and Knowledge Engineering, in Otto-von-Guericke Universitat Magdeburg, in Germany. I like exploring newer places and their culture. Stay connected on the social media.

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