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Everything you need to know about health insurance for freelancers in Austria

Everything you need to know about health insurance for freelancers in Austria
Freelancing in Austria? Here's what you need to know about health insurance. Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
Social insurance, the term used to describe health insurance and other aspects such as pensions, is compulsory in Austria - even for self-employed people. Here’s everything you need to know.

Everyone in Austria has to have health and social insurance, but for self-employed people it can be overwhelming to navigate the system.

This is because social insurance is usually taken care of by an employer and the amount is simply deducted from a salary every month. 

However, setting up social insurance as a freelancer or self-employed person can be simplified – once you know the basics.

How does social insurance work in Austria? 

For employed people in Austria, social insurance payments are made to the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse (ÖGK) every month via their employer. 

The ÖGK is the largest social health insurance company in Austria, with 82 percent of people in the country insured through the organisation.

Freelancers and self-employed people have to organise insurance themselves though, which can be done through the organisation of social insurance for self-employed people (Sozialversicherung der Selbständigen) or SVS

FOR MEMBERS: How to survive as a freelancer in Austria

For freelancers from overseas, navigating insurance in another language can be a daunting part of the process. 

James Tibbles, a former freelance web designer from the UK who lives in Tyrol, advises any self-employed people in Austria to seek help from an advisor when starting out.

James told The Local: “My tax advisor explained it all to me and picked out the correct one for my circumstances, so whenever I received a letter from them I just immediately passed it on to her.”

Another tip is to find an advisor that speaks a high level of English, which can be relatively easy in more metropolitan areas or regions with a strong tourism industry. 

Registering as self-employed also involves signing up with the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKO) who can then help you with setting up insurance with the SVS.

The key thing to remember is that health and social insurance is compulsory in Austria. So make sure it is a top priority. 

What do SVS payments cover?

SVS payments cover several aspects of health and social care. 

According to the Austrian government, social insurance payments cover: “prevention, sickness, incapacity for work/invalidity, maternity, unemployment, old age, death of a person liable to provide maintenance, survivors’ pensions, nursing care and social need.”

It basically grants people the same social insurance coverage as those on payroll.

For example, €100 of SVS payment can be broken down as €65 towards pension, €26 for health insurance, €5 towards self-employment provisions, €2 for accident insurance and €2 in administration costs.

As you can see, the largest percentage of SVS goes towards a pension, which means even though payments are considered to be high by many self-employed people, a large portion of the money is being invested.

READ MORE: How does the Austrian pension system work?

In fact, Austria’s pension system is one of the best in Europe, offering 80.9 percent of the average salary, which is only beaten by Luxembourg and Italy.

To compare, the state pension in the UK is just 28.4 percent of the average salary with experts warning that the payments don’t even cover a minimum standard of living.

As an added bonus, social insurance contributions in Austria can even be deducted from your tax bill at the end of the year (but only what you have paid so far).

Typical SVS payments

If you are self-employed in Austria, it is compulsory to pay for health and social insurance once your income exceeds €5,710.32 annually. But if you don’t reach that limit then you are exempt from paying social insurance.

The minimum contribution for those earning up to around €8,000 a year is around €160 a month. Once your salary exceeds that amount, you will be charged more. 

For the first three years, payments are calculated on a minimum contribution basis. But from the fourth year of self-employment, social insurance contributions are calculated in relation to the income in the preceding third year of business.

READ ALSO: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Austria?

However, it’s important to be aware that when first registering as self-employed in Austria there is often a delay to the start of social insurance payments.

This can mean receiving a bill several months later and having to pay six months worth of social insurance in one go. Afterwards though, you should receive SVS bills on a quarterly basis.

Useful links

SEA – The self-employed in Austria group supports self-employed individuals by delivering information in the form of guidebooks and free articles in English. 

SVS – The social insurance organisation for self-employed people in Austria.

WKO – The Austrian Chamber of Commerce is a useful source of information for self-employed people.

Useful vocabulary

Sozialversicherung – social insurance

Selbständigen – self-employed

Neue Selbständige – new self-employed

Steuer – tax

Gesundheitsversicherung – health insurance

Pensionsvorsorge  – pension provision

Unfallversicherung – accident insurance

Verwaltungskosten – administration costs


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