More than health insurance for freelancers: KSK (Künstlersozialkasse)
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Especially at the beginning of your self-employment, you are faced with a big number of decisions that can later have a big influence on your financial independence. This also includes dealing with insurances, especially as a self-employed person.
Here, we take a closer look at the so called KSK, short for Künstlersozialversicherung or Künstlersozialkasse. The KSK as institution is unique in all of Europe, because it was created to recognize the contribution and creative work of artists and publicists as socially relevant and to therefore give this type of freelancers access to statutory social insurance.
By now, the KSK is a compulsory insurance for all self-employed artists and publicists. If you belong to this group, it is your responsibility to apply for admission. Which insurances are “worthwhile” as a self-employed person is a hotly debated topic among self-employed people. The debate does not stop at the KSK, because although its advantages are obvious, others are also critical of it. In this article, we would like to introduce you to the KSK – including its advantages and critical points.
What is the Künstlersozialkasse, what services and advantages does it offer?
Since 1983, the KSK has offered all artists and publicists insurance cover similar to that enjoyed by regular employees in the social insurance system. This is intended to offer these freelancers the same social security options as employees. The KSK is not a service provider itself, but merely coordinates the payment of contributions to the health insurance fund and to the statutory pension and long-term care insurance fund for its members. As a member of the KSK, you can choose your health insurance fund yourself – this also means that you are responsible for taking care of membership in a health insurance. A monthly contribution is due for membership in the KSK, which is based on the amount of the respective earned income.
💡Tip from Accountable: On the KSK website you can find an example of the calculation of the member contribution.
Unlike employees, self-employed artists and publicists usually do not have a permanent employer. In the case of employees, the employer pays a share of the social insurance. This is exactly what the KSK does for this group of freelancers and pays 50% of the contributions to health, pension and long-term care insurance. For you, this means that you only have to pay half of your insurance contributions yourself. By the way, the other 50% comes from a subsidy from the federal government and a levy on companies that use artistic and publishing services – also called “Verwerter” (users).
With membership in the KSK, you gain access to statutory social insurance at a lower financial cost. This is particularly relevant at the beginning of your self-employment in order to have a minimum level of protection.
💡 Tip from Accountable: Many insurances that you need as a self-employed person can even be deducted from your taxes. Find out more here.
How to become a member of KSK
In order to register as member of KSK, you need to fill in the ‘Fragebogen zur Prüfung der Versicherungspflicht nach dem Künstlersozialversicherungsgesetz’ (in English ‘questionnaire for the examination of the insurance obligation according to the Artists’ Social Insurance Act’). You have to fill out this form and submit it together with other documents, e.g. a proof of occupation, which can be a contract with a client or proof of a publication. After submitting the questionnaire and the documents the KSK will check them and will then decide on your admission.
Two aspects are particularly important in the examination: Does your self-employed creative or journalistic activity qualify you for membership and: What is your income? Because since 2014, your annual income must be above the so-called marginal income threshold of 3,900 EUR per year in order to qualify for KSK membership. An exception is made for starters, who can enjoy membership for the first three years without reaching the minimum income. This period can be extended under special conditions, e.g. parental leave or voluntary military service. In order to obtain legal certainty, a Statusfeststellungsverfahren nach § 7a SGB IV (status determination procedure according to § 7a SGB IV) can also be carried out. Responsible for this is the Clearingstelle der DRV Bund (clearing office of the DRV Bund).
💡 Tip from Accountable: Membership is compulsory if you belong to a relevant professional group. You can find the questionnaire to check whether you are obliged to be insured under the Artists’ Social Insurance Act here.
If your application is accepted and you are a member of the KSK, you can choose your health insurance yourself. This is then also your contact for your benefit claims – so not the KSK itself. For claims to pension and long-term care insurance, you also report directly to the relevant institutions.
Watch out! Know the benefits of the KSK and be aware of the risks
The advantages of the KSK are obvious. However, be aware that it does not cover all risks. For example, statutory accident insurance and unemployment insurance are not part of the KSK. Here, as a freelancer, you have the choice of either taking out private insurance or resorting to statutory offers. However, this does not apply to all freelancers: for example, physiotherapists, midwives, speech therapists, nurses and geriatric nurses are compulsorily insured in a Berufsgenossenschaft, BG (professional association). All others can insure themselves voluntarily in the appropriate BG or take out private accident insurance.
Unemployment is not covered
Does it make sense to pay for unemployment insurance or should this money rather be invested in building up your own assets? There is no one right answer to this common question among freelancers. Unfortunately, also membership in the KSK will not help you make this decision, as it does not include insurance against unemployment. As a freelancer however, there are ways to insure yourself under certain conditions. For example, you must have received unemployment benefit or another income replacement benefit in the last 24 months or have been compulsorily insured for at least twelve months. At the beginning of your self-employment you can take out voluntary unemployment insurance. If you decide to take out voluntary insurance, you are usually bound to this decision for five years.
Everyone who is excluded from the above regulation can take out private insurance against unemployment. The amount of the contributions depends strongly on the level of the wanted coverage and the respective industry and occupation.
💡 Tip from Accountable: You can also save money when you deduct your professional expenses. We show you how to do it here.
If you are at the beginning of your freelance career and your income is still manageable, then the KSK offers you the most favorable possibility to insure yourself and to have access to the statutory social security systems. However, the KSK is a compulsory insurance for all freelancers working in the artistic field and therefore the possible freedom of choice that other self-employed people enjoy as to whether or not they want to join the statutory social security system is not applicable. Artists with significantly higher incomes in particular see this as a disadvantage. Others, on the other hand, see the minimum income as problematic, which must be reached by those just starting out in the profession in order to gain access to the social security system. The three-year period to gain a foothold in the art business is often seen as insufficient and leads to the artists who most urgently need the subsidies unfortunately often going away empty-handed.
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