Healthcare in Italy

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healthcare in italy
As is the case in most countries, the standard of healthcare in Italy varies tremendously.
Expats will find a public sector that generally offers high standards of healthcare. There can, however, be discrepancies in the quality of care in different regions of the country. On the other hand, private healthcare in Italy is highly regarded, but can be prohibitively expensive without the proper insurance.
Most Italians make use of public healthcare but those that can afford it try and get the best of both systems.

Public healthcare in Italy

The national health service in Italy, Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN), provides citizens and residents with free or low-cost healthcare that includes access to general practitioners (GPs), treatment at public hospitals, subsidised medicines, lab services, ambulance services and certain specialist care.

Although the SSN is a socialised system, regional governments are in charge of managing it on a provincial level, with the result that the standard of treatment isn't uniform throughout the country. For instance, public hospitals in Italy’s northern and central regions are known to offer higher standards of care than those in the south. As a result, expats may prefer to be treated in a major city such as Milan in emergency cases.

Private healthcare in Italy

Private healthcare in Italy is championed by doctors that are well trained and on par with the finest in the world. There are a number of impressive specialist facilities in the large urban centres, and university hospitals are also highly reputable.

Although public healthcare in Italy is free, most foreigners still opt to utilise private healthcare. Private procedures vary in cost, and the Ministry of Health sets a minimum charge for all operations in this sector.

For this reason, private healthcare can be expensive and health insurance is a must. In many cases, employers are obliged to finance health insurance for their employees but, if not, it is vital that expats organise it themselves.

Private healthcare allows expats to avoid the queues and complications of the public system, and also makes provision for more comforts and personal choice when it comes to doctors and facilities. For these reasons, there are also many Italians who opt to use the private system if they can afford to. 

Health insurance in Italy

Expats who are EU nationals can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to gain access to public healthcare services in Italy.

Non-EU expats will, however, need to formally register for the SSN. Expats who have their residence status finalised and have an Italian identity card (carta d’identità) are then able to apply for an Italian health insurance card (tessera sanitaria).

In order to get an Italian health insurance card an expat would have to go to their nearest local health authority (Azienda Sanità Locale) and apply for the card, which will require various documents. This usually includes the expat’s residence permit, official identification and proof of employment, among others.

Expats wanting to claim benefits for their families will require a family status certificate (certificato di stato di famiglia).
After registering, applicants have to choose a family doctor and a paediatrician, if applicable. They are then issued with their Italian health insurance card, which must be presented in order to receive care under the SSN. These cards must be renewed every year.

If expats don't qualify for healthcare under the SSN or EHIC, they must have private health insurance. It is also recommended for chronic or specialist treatment for peace of mind, choice of treatment centres and comfort.

Pharmacies in Italy

Under the Italian healthcare system, medicines prescribed by one's GP are provided free of charge or are provided at subsidised rates. Over-the-counter medicines, on the other hand, must be paid for in full. There are many pharmacies (farmacia) around Italy, including 24-hour pharmacies, especially in the major cities.

Health hazards in Italy

There are no particular health hazards in Italy, apart from occasionally hot weather which expats can manage by drinking plenty of water, staying out of the sun and wearing sunblock.

Pre-travel vaccinations for Italy

There are no particular vaccinations needed before visiting Italy, but expats should nevertheless make sure they're up-to-date on routine vaccinations like MMR (mumps-measles-rubella), tetanus and polio.

Emergency services in Italy

For emergency medical services, expats can dial 118 but English-speaking operators might not be available. If expats don't speak enough Italian to communicate in such as emergency, they can call 112, an emergency number serving all of Europe.

The arrival of emergency services in life-threatening situations can vary from eight minutes in cities to a maximum of 20 minutes in rural areas.

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