Italy’s Healthcare System Explained

Italy’s Healthcare System Explained

Over 94 million people traveled to Italy in 2019 alone, and for good reason. It’s a country that’s rich in both culture, food, history, art, and landscapes and excellent Italy’s healthcare system. In fact, some of the most popular foods and places you’ve heard of have originated in this European country. Does the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Roman Colosseum ring a bell? You’ll find those landmarks in Italy. Ever wanted to go on a romantic river cruise along the canals or feast on authentic spaghetti and pizza? Italy’s the country for you. 

On top of all that Italy offers, it has a sizeable population of about 60.4 million people. Because the standard of living is high, Italians can enjoy a great quality of life. Did you know that the average life expectancy for a man is 79.6 years and 85.1 years for a woman? Those impressive numbers are due in part to the healthy diet and lifestyle of the people. According to the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index of 2019, Italians are actually some of the healthiest people in the entire world.

A chunk of that is also due to Italy’s successful healthcare system. If you’ve ever desired to live as an expat in Italy and settle in the beautiful country for the long run, you might want to investigate the benefits of health insurance in Italy for foreigners. That’s because, in terms of numbers alone, the Italy healthcare system ranking is fourth in the world. On the off chance that you do get caught up with an emergency accident or injury, Italy would seem like the prime place to be.

Curious to learn more about the Italian healthcare system and how you can reap its benefits? Read on to find out.

How the Healthcare System Works in Italy

In Italy, the healthcare system is split up between public healthcare and private healthcare. In general, most Italians will be involved in the public healthcare sphere. However, many still would rather choose private health insurance in Italy instead for a variety of reasons. Let’s take a closer look in-depth at the two biggest types of healthcare to determine which one is for you.

How the Healthcare System Works in Italy
How the Healthcare System Works in Italy

How Public Healthcare Works in Italy

The national health service in Italy is known as Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN) and is regionally based across the country to provide universal coverage for its citizens and residents. The important thing here to note is that all legal residents, including Italians and foreigners, have the right to public healthcare. It’s up to you if you want to exercise that right.

A huge reason why most people in Italy choose the public healthcare system is that it is mostly free of charge. If you were to ever need a life-saving surgery or treatment for a health issue, you wouldn’t have to worry about completely depleting your bank account. In fact, all your treatments would be paid for by the public system except for a small co-payment on your behalf for any tests, medications, doctor visits, and more. In case you were wondering, the Italian healthcare system also includes coverage on medication, out-patient treatments, and even dental work. There’s convenience in this system that you wouldn’t be able to find in many other countries.

However, the one downside of the public healthcare system in Italy is that the hospitals and facilities may not boast of the same quality across the country. It largely depends on which region you’re trying to receive healthcare from. For instance, though most public hospitals across the board are top quality and provide standard service, there are some state-owned hospitals that simply fall through the cracks, whether because they’re overcrowded or lack enough funding.

If you’re an expat who’s used to a high-quality healthcare treatment experience every time in your home country, you may not consistently get that same luxury for every hospital you might encounter in Italy. However, to avoid this issue, it’s simply best to do your research beforehand and prioritize healthcare providers on your traveling agenda. In general, the better hospitals are located up north and in the larger cities.

On the other hand, it is a tradeoff that balances itself out with free healthcare. The fact that you don’t have to pay much if any at all out of pocket is a huge reason why Italy’s healthcare system is one of the best in the world. Yet, you may be wondering why some people would still pay for private healthcare if the public system is so convenient. Well, let’s dive in right away to what private health insurance in Italy looks like.

How Private Healthcare Works in Italy

Although public healthcare in Italy is free, there are plenty of advantages that private healthcare can offer. For one, private insurance means you’ll have far longer waiting times for appointments, tests, procedures, or for any health need at a private hospital. Additionally, because fewer people opt for private insurance, you’re guaranteed to receive more attention and care. You have the freedom to choose your doctors and specialists without worrying about being assigned to a doctor who isn’t as concerned about following up with you as a patient. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that you get to be treated at a private hospital instead of a public one, the latter of which is usually much more crowded. At a private location, you can skip the long waiting lists to be treated in world-class facilities that boast updated technology, comfort, and quality.

One of the last few advantages is that it’s a prime health insurance in Italy for foreigners. As an expat, you’re more likely to find doctors and nurses who can speak English or your native language, which can come extremely handy in times of great emergency. Keep in mind though that because you’re an expat, you should look out for potential scams where you might be charged more than local citizens.

How to Get Health Insurance in Italy

How to Get Health Insurance in Italy
How to Get Health Insurance in Italy

Now that you’re far more familiar with how the Italy healthcare system is set up, it’s time to find out how you can obtain the insurance plan of your dreams. Let’s first start with the public healthcare system.

The very first step you must do is to get registered with the SSN. You can do so by finding your nearest local health unit, called the Azienda Sanitaria Locale (ASL). Remember that your goal is to obtain your Terresa Sanitaria, which is your health card.

To do that, you can either select the mandatory registration type or the voluntary type. The former applies to most expats and workers, while the latter is more for visitors with shorter stays. As soon as you’re familiar with which qualifications apply, you then complete an application form called the Bollettino Postale at your local Post Office and keep the receipt on hand.

Before you go into your ASL, make sure you’ve also prepared your required documents to present along with your application receipt. They include your passport, your tax code, residence permit, and self-declaration of address, as well as your receipt.

If everything goes smoothly, your health card will be mailed to you. Then, you’ll be ready to register for a family doctor.

However, if public healthcare isn’t the most appealing to you and you’d rather prefer private healthcare, it’s important that you first carry out research to obtain health insurance. If you don’t, private health treatments could easily take from your bank for every appointment that you set up. In general, you should be familiar with the three most popular types of health insurance.

The first is the most basic plan, which is primarily for residential applicants and won’t cover any serious conditions should you have them. It roughly costs around 300 to 500 EUR. The second type is the most popular in Italy, which works jointly with the SSN and offers you all the benefits you can expect from the private healthcare system, like faster wait times. It’ll typically cost you 1,000 EUR a year. Lastly, the third type covers almost everything when it comes to your medical needs. However, it is expensive, and racks prices as high as 3,000 EUR per year.

Italian Healthcare System vs US Healthcare System

There’s no question about it that Italy and the United States both have advanced healthcare systems that have the capability to care for you. However, where they mostly differ is in accessibility. Did you know that the US is the only developed country in the world where an individual can legally be uninsured? That’s primarily because the US health insurance system is privatized, meaning that the government cannot guarantee insurance for you.

The only way you’d be able to obtain coverage is if you buy it from a private company, have an employer that covers it for you, or if you qualify for government assistance programs like Medicare or Medicaid. The latter only typically applies if you’re a senior citizen or are low-income.

In general, there’s no denying that obtaining healthcare insurance in the US is very expensive.

Compare this to Italy’s system, which provides universal healthcare coverage and considers it an important right for its citizens. Hospitals are funded by tax revenue and the funds are distributed by region. Even legal foreign residents and expats like yourself can obtain these rights. Although there is private healthcare in Italy as well, the number of people who pay for these services is far lower than in the US, as private healthcare is practically nonexistent.

Pros and Cons of Italy Healthcare System

Let’s get a big picture idea by looking at the Italian healthcare system’s pros and cons.

Pros

  • The public healthcare system is free or requires a very small co-payment.
  • Medical professionals are highly qualified in Italy.
  • Private healthcare is available for those who want it.

Cons

  • Public hospitals can get overcrowded and wait time might be longer.
  • It’s not as easy to find English-speaking medical staff unless you’re in larger cities or go private.
  • You can’t pick the specialists you want after a doctor’s referral.

Conclusion

With all the wonderful things there are to love about the country of Italy, the healthcare system is another cherry on top. In taking the time to do your research and evaluate your healthcare needs, Italy’s setup allows you full flexibility and accessibility to take charge of your health.

FAQ’s

What type of healthcare system is there in Italy?

In Italy, there are two types of healthcare systems. The first is the public healthcare system, which provides free coverage to all citizens and residents. The second is the private healthcare system, which requires you to pay for coverage.

Does Italy have a good healthcare system?

Yes, Italy has a great healthcare system. In fact, it’s ranked fourth in the world according to TreeCycle. Plus, many of the medical professionals and staff are highly qualified and trained in Italy.

Private Healthcare vs. Public Healthcare system

            Public Healthcare
  • Free coverage.
  • Well-trained professionals.
  • No equal resource distribution across hospitals.
  • Longer wait times with overcrowding.
  • Less English-speaking medical staff.
  • Inability to choose specialists.
            Private Healthcare
  • Very expensive unless insurance is bought.
  • Far less popular.
  • Faster service.
  • More attentive care.
  • More English-speaking medical staff.
  • Ability to choose specialists.

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