An expat guide to healthcare and health insurance in Italy
Are you researching an expat health insurance for Italy? It is important to learn about the local healthcare system first.
Whether you are moving to Italy or you are already living there as an expat, read our guide to the Italian healthcare system, your different options of medical insurance for Italy and an overview of the average cost of local healthcare.
- Total Population (2016): 60.6 million
- Gross national income per capita (PPP international $, 2017): 40,030
- Life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2016): 80/85
- Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population, 2016): 69/38
- Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2014): 3,239
- Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2014) 9.2
Healthcare in Italy for expats
The Italian social security system provides health, maternity, disability, retirement, death (for the environment), unemployment, accidents at work and occupational diseases and family benefits.
Health benefits are provided by the Italian National Health Service (Servizio sanitario nazionale, SSN). It offers all residents free basic health care or for a fee from the insured. The management of the health system is decentralized : the NHS is organized as a regional service network, local health agencies (ASL, aziende local sanitarie).
Affiliation to the health system is mandatory above three-month residency in Italy. To register for the SSN, you should contact the local health agency of the jurisdiction where you reside. Then you are issued a health card (tessera sanitaria) opening your rights to health care. At each change of residence, you must register with the ASL of your new place of residence.
What does it cost?
Basic medical care is free. Additional care should be a patient’s financial participation. The maximum participation ranges from 36 to 46.15 euros by region. For free or reduced-rate, consult a registered doctor or go to the local unità sanitarie, which are health centres accredited by the SSN.
Free care: general medicine, paediatrics until the age of 12, obstetric care, gynecology, maternity-related care, dental care (provided they are referred by the GP), hospitalization in public hospitals or in private clinics in partnership with the SSN, some prescription drugs.
Care with co-payment from the patient: laboratory tests, prostheses, consultation with medical specialists (only if contracted and referred by the GP) and certain classes of drugs. Spa treatments are also under agreement with a co-payment of 50 euros.
Patients in certain socio-economic situations or with certain diseases are exempt from co-payments.
Please note, there may be differences between the regions in terms of health benefits. It is therefore advisable to contact your local health agency for specific information.
The limits of the Italian health system
Italy has a good quality healthcare system but waiting times in the public sector are sometimes very long.
Moreover, given that the health system is decentralized, the financial resources allocated to health can vary greatly from one region to another, resulting in deep inequalities between northern and southern Italy (quality of care, waiting times…). Some public hospitals in the south in particular, may be below average quality standards. There is also a form of inter-regional medical tourism: the northern hospitals being generally more renowned, many southern Italians go there for treatment, which prolongs the waiting lists. For these reasons, many Italians and foreigners resort to private health.
Private health insurance
The private service is characterized by often high fees (see ”How much does healthcare cost in Italy” below), hence the importance of taking out private health insurance that covers theses costs. For an expatriate, international health insurance is usually more appropriate than local health insurance.
International health insurance for expats in Italy
If you decide to sign up for a private medical cover, an international health insurance for Italy is more suited to the expat lifestyle than a local health insurance.
An international health insurance gives you the opportunity to seek treatment in the medical facility or with the doctor of your choice, whether in Italy or abroad. Choosing an international insurance with a coverage area beyond Italy is the best option for people preferring to seek treatment abroad or in their country of origin in case of a specific medical problem.
Moreover, if after Italy you move to another country, your expat health insurance can follow you, unlike an Italian private health insurance which is only valid locally.
If you would like wider financial protection in the event of stopping work due to an accident or disabling illness, Expat Assure can also advise you on expat life insurance for Italy and income protection. To find out more, please, read our pages on expat life insurance and expat income protection.
What is the best health insurance for expats in Italy?
The best health insurance in Italy depends on your specific needs rather than a general criteria, so the best insurance for one expat might not be the best for you.
In order to find which one is the best health insurance in Italy for you, it is important to consider several aspects such as your medical history, your age, your specific needs in terms of medical cover, your situation in Indonesia, alongside other criteria.
How much does healthcare cost in Italy
As noted above, the medicine in the public sector is either free or highly subsidised. Conversely, the cost of private medicine is very high in Italy.
Examples of medical costs:
Consultation with a GP: free in the public sector and between 50 and 120 euros in the private sector. Rates vary greatly depending on the urgency of the consultation, time ( day or night ), but also between regions (rates are higher in the north than in the south) .
Consultation with a specialist: for example, a consultation with a surgeon in a public hospital in Rome will be 80 euros or 36 to 46.15 if you benefit from the SSN. Consultation with the same surgeon in a private clinic will be 200 euros.
Consultation with a dentist: consultation is free in the public sector. In the private sector, costs approximately 100 euros. The price of a ceramic crown is around 850 euros.
Hospitalization: Hospitalization is free in the public sector. In a private hospital in Rome, the prices start at around 400 euros in a single room, including a bed for a close relative of the patient. However, this does not include medical expenses and treatments that can amount to several thousand depending on the medical condition to treat.
How much does health insurance cost in Italy?
Such as with any type of health insurance, the price of medical insurance for expats in Italy varies greatly depending on the age, medical history, family composition of the applicant and other factors.
No specific vaccinations are required to enter Italy.
118 – Ambulance (Emergenza sanitaria)
113 – Police (Carabineri)
115 – Fireman (Vigili del fuoco)
Check the list of local health agencies on the website of the Italian Ministry of Health.
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