Health Care in Italy

by Jose Marc Castro on August 8, 2009

healthcareDUBAIFor anybody who has plans of migrating in Italy, it is important to know the health care system of this Southern European country. Known to provide very low cost health care services, Italy is home to very good standards of medical assistance. In fact, Italy spent about 9.0% of their GDP for health care. However, there are still some concerns about health care in Italy that needs to be thoroughly discussed.

Italy, officially called the Italian Republic, is situated on the Italian Peninsula in Southern Europe, as well as on the islands of Sardinia, Sicily, and the Mediterranean Sea. On the northern Alpine boundary of Italy are Slovenia, Austria, France and Switzerland. The independent states of San Marino and Vatican are enclaves in the Italian Peninsula, and the Italian enclave in Switzerland is Campione d’Italia.

Health Systems of Italy

Despite reputations and considerable prejudices even on most Italians, Italy is actually a country to expect for affordable health care with the best standards of medical assistance. Italian doctors are well trained and very passionate about their profession, and their private hospitals are comparable with any country. However, there are some state hospitals in Italy that are very patchy, providing comfort way below what most northern Europeans and Americans expect. These hospitals are normally found in southern Italy. To stay away with this, expatriates and Italians alike prefer to consider a private health insurance to generally cover the expensive costs of hospitalizations and surgeries just to have the comfort needed and to avoid waiting on long lists that are normally common on most state systems.

The National Health System of Italy

The national health system of Italy, called the Servizio Sanitario Nazioanale, is the branch that provides inexpensive health care to all the European citizens. This system was instituted in 1978 to provide universal healthcare for its citizens. Covered are in-patient treatments that include tests, medications, as well as surgeries during hospitalization, family doctor visits, medical assistance that are provided by pediatricians, and other specialists. The health system also shoulders of drugs, medicines, out-patient treatments, as well as dental treatments. Regardless of where one comes from, it is imperative that he/she should have a health insurance form the moment he/she arrives in Italy. Without it, issuance of a permesso di soggiorno is not possible.

As shared in Italy Expat Forum last August 1, 2009:

Having an EU passport is no sure entrance into the Italian health care system. Normally, you need to have a document from your home country showing that you have been covered by that health care system for a period of time (i.e. have been making contributions toward the social insurances).

Getting the Right Health Insurance in Italy

If you are employed in Italy, your employer is obliged to pay for you health insurance. You can pay a visit to the nearest health local authorities, the Azienda Sanit ‘E Locale or the ASL, and then registered with your doctor. Once you are already registered, a health card and a health number will then be issued. This will serve as your ticket to free visits to your doctor. Your doctor will then issue you with the proper prescriptions, along with referrals to specialists.

On the other hand, if you are a European citizen that is paying a visit to Italy, take advantage of the reciprocal health agreements. Before you arrive, you are required to apply for a form E111, or the certificate of entitlement to treatment, at least three weeks prior to traveling. But if you are visiting Italy and not a European citizen, you are required to have a private insurance cover. Upon arrival, you have eight days to visit the local police station and present a health policy that is only valid within the duration of your stay.

Drugs and Medical Products in Italy

Once you are already in Italy and in need of prescription medicines and other drugs, your respective family doctor will issue you a prescription that you can present to the pharmacy. Most pharmacies in Italy are just small family-run establishments and they only deal with medically related items. However, if you have state health coverage, you qualify for those subsidized charges that reduce the cost of the medicines. The most common prescriptions are pills (pillole), injections (inienioni), suppositories (supposta) or powders (polveri). The medications are grouped according to a list where ticketed discounts are provided, so long as you are registered with the social security system. Otherwise, you are required to pay in full. If you are maintaining a prescriptive drug regularly, ask your home country doctors for your medicines’ generic names since brands normally vary from one country to another.

Hospitals in Italy

Italian state hospitals, called ospedali, can sometimes be considered as very depressing places because of poor nursing back-ups, although some basic hospital accommodations can still be relied upon. There is a clear difference between private and public hospital facilities, though the expertise is still of the same quality. If there is a need for you to be hospitalized, obtain a doctor’s referral from your medical practitioner and there are possibilities that your hospital charges are free if you qualify for the state health coverage. Italian state hospital rooms normally have three to six beds but you can still avail for single rooms only if you pay for the daily supplements. Although single and private rooms, these rooms are not equipped with a television set and bedside telephones. However, there are a few hospitals that provide specialized treatments. Additionally, under the National Health, you can actually request to be treated in hospitals in near cities.

Private or State Coverage in Italy?

Italians and foreigners in Italy prefer to take private health insurance coverage over and above those basic state covers. With a private insurance, you can freely choose your own doctor and specialist and treated at private hospitals, thus avoiding for those long queues just to get an appointment for medical specialists. Private hospitals in Italy have the best accommodations, comparable to those five-star hotels. Although with the comfort and the quality of service from private hospitals, the medical care is very similar to those in public hospitals.

However, you should be aware that private hospital treatments in Italy are very expensive. Before any treatment, see to it that you check whether your chosen insurance company covers your treatment.

In order to find the best care under your plan, it was recommended in the Italy Expat Forum last September 4, 2008:

However, I contact my insurance company (BC/BS) and they said that generally they would pay the hospital directly for any care that was received as inpatient….but anything that was outpatient, dental, office visit…I would have to pay out of pocket and then submit the global healthcare claim…They did say that they had some providers in Italy…..My insurance company had an entire department devoted to global claims…and they gave me the phone number to call when and if I needed it while I’m there for the year……I was told that there is an American Hospital just outside of Rome…if that helps…..

The best bet for you when you plan to take up residence in the Italian Republic is to register with the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale.

Other Italian Health Services

Through referrals from medical practitioner, medical auxiliary services from nurses, chiropodists, or physiotherapists can be available, depending on where you are living. There are some locations that require payments for nurses doing home visits. Additionally, free counseling for relationship and family problems are also available through networks of different local health centers wherein appointments can be done without requiring a doctor’s referral.

If you have plans to visit or settle down in this Southern European country, make it a point that you are aware of the basic things about the health care systems of Italy. Read them from the Internet or seek the advice from professionals of health care. That way, your stay in Italy will be a hassle-free and worry-free one.


{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Mathew Sebastian December 1, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Iam a registered Nurse in India. Recently I received the work permit from Italy through one of my friends. Now I need to findout some agency who can sponser me for working there. Can you provide some names of those agencies helps me in procuring a "Nulla osta" to enter into Italy.

With best regards,

Sebastian Mathew

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tony June 16, 2010 at 7:30 am

hi sebastain/anybody plz give me idea how to get the work permit in Italy, I am registered Nurse. +91 9742770407, 9036097650

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SUBAIR.P.M January 21, 2010 at 12:43 pm

I AM A REGISTRED NURSE IN INDIA,I AM INTERESTED TO WORK IN ITALY.HOW I CAN REACH IN ITALY ,WHAT ARE THE VISA PROCEDURE.HOPING YOUR HELP.CELL.No.+919846578816 THANKING YOU

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miss d April 11, 2010 at 8:41 pm

am a filipino working here in greece as a live-in caregiver under law 89……..can you tell me if possible to work or to transfer in italy to find job?am a medical graduate and have 8 mos training in caregiving with a background of day care teaching and a one week training 0f first aid in short nursing procedure.hoping for your answer…thank you

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Richie August 21, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Good day to you! I ’m Richie P. Deomampo, a Registered Nurse I had 2 years of working experience as an ICU nurse in the Philippines at Metro Lemery Medical Center , Lemery Batangas , Philippines , a 100 hospital bed capacity and presently increasing in number to serve more patients who needs special care that my previous hospital is known for. I just finished my contract in Saudi Arabia as ER nurse at Al Quz National Hospital last June 20, 2010.

During my nurse career I have dealt with different patients, including surgical patients, helpless bed patients and fatal patients, and gained a lot of experience in special needs nursing. Working in difficult conditions of the economic transition period, I have developed a lot of skills to take on serious, numerous tasks and to excel under pressure and shortage. These kind of situations I have went through really made me tough. I am 27 years of age. I am a very kind and friendly person with simple values in life. I have tolerance, compassion, honesty and strength. I enjoy life as it is. I have a high motivation for working and doing good, and given the opportunity, I will do my best to perform a nursing job effectively.

For my credentials, I had a wide experience in the Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Room. If I will be given a chance to be hired, I would prefer to apply as an ICU or ER Nurse since I was perfectly overwhelmed by the field. I will provide excellent nursing care to promote patient’s welfare and excel in terms of quality service since I believe that your institution plays a role in global competency and astounding technological advancements.

I am available anytime, so if you would like to know more about me, please don’t hesitate to contact me with this number +639208249164. Thanks very much indeed!.

I want to work as a carer/nurse in ITALY…anyone willing to make sponsor for me….

Respectfully yours.

Richie Deomampo

Mobile Number: +639208249164

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blessybinu August 29, 2010 at 8:27 am

Hi I am bsc nurse.looking job in italy.please send me more details

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Rona Oliver October 2, 2010 at 2:03 pm

hello!
i am a registered nurse in Philippines. I worked as an Operating room nurse. Please send me details on how to process application in italy. I am looking forward t work there. Thank you.

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Bejide kehinde October 20, 2010 at 11:20 am

Sir, i want to come for plastic surgery in italy, if you want me to send my medical report and picture. To know how much it will cost me. Kindly reply me.

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hiv symptoms October 27, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I like the writing relevancy of your website and it will a sweet decent work of presenting the info.

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kerniel January 27, 2011 at 5:36 pm

im already here in italy, also searching for a nursing job. right now it's very difficult to find a job here, professionally because of their language and economic situation right now.

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tumpa February 13, 2011 at 5:47 am

I studied at child developmen & family relation under the subject home economics , may i get job in italy ? pls inform me by my mail .

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hazel llewellyn March 8, 2011 at 7:54 am

Hi i am a licensed nurse in the philippines and i am looking for a job in italy. pls tell me how i could get a job in italy. thanks.

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chula maduu July 23, 2011 at 3:19 pm

ITALIAN GOVERNMENT professor or Professor who lives in Italy under the section of mentally retarded children and How can i contact him?

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mark December 30, 2011 at 3:27 am

hi i am a nurse phlebotomist from the philippines and interested to work in italy. pls send me more details on how to process my application,what is needed and how much wil i have to spend. thank you!

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mahesh January 30, 2012 at 2:52 pm

hi i am carer in london. i have 3 years experience in care home.i want to live in canada,how can i find out any care home in canada who give sponcer me to do job in canada

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sara May 30, 2012 at 12:35 pm

i am ethiopian married to italy and leave in ethiopia my question is "can i give birth in italy? is that free for charge for the spouse of Italians? thanks

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Laura September 30, 2014 at 11:19 am

In a public hospital it is.

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trish August 24, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Italy's national healthcare service is ranked 2nd best in the world, after France, by the WHO (World Health Organization) and 3rd best according to the British Medical Journal. Treatment and hospitalization are completely free of charge for everyone including foreign residents and even illegal aliens. All the hospitals are modern or renovated and patients are accommodated in two-bed rooms with en-suite bathroom, there are no such things as mixed wards. The doctors are the most well trained in the world. Thanks to its excellent healthcare service life expectancy in Italy is the highest in Europe, two years above OECD average. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN6pf32eRlg

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giovanni September 22, 2014 at 6:19 pm

hi. i am italian and i live in a city of southern italy. i have read in this article that “Italians and foreigners in Italy prefer to take private health insurance”, but it is not truth. in fact here really no one has a private insurance, since the “servizio sanitario nazionale” is completely free for evertone and for every kind of need (exept for not necessary care that can be provided by the public service itself under payment). the healthcare system works through the local “ASL” (azienda sanitaria locale) that consists of the various family doctors in the city were you live(everybody belongs to one of them, there is one doctor for max 1500 people, and can contact him for the daily needs, if you take a virus or you need a drug), the local structure called “casa della salute” (for vaccines and blood analysis) and the bigger hospitals in the most important city (for emergencies and difficult cares). expecially in the last decade new hospitals, technological and confortable, have been built, and if your situation is difficult a “bollino rosso” is given to you and have no lines, while if your situation is normal a “bollino verde” is given and you must take an appointment waiting a variant period, sometimes long (but in a system in which health is for everyone, i think this is normal). if i move in a eu country and i need assistance for a health emergency, i only have to show my “tessera sanitaria” (personal healthcare system card) and my asl will repay the cares to the host country. the italians have a good opinion on the national healthcare system and consider it modern in all the country even with its criticals, in continuos improvement. on the other hand the statistics confirm: the system is the 2nd in the world and life expectancy is one of the highest.

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Laura September 30, 2014 at 11:19 am

I can only confirm what Giovanni wrote. People with serious illnesses are usually treated/get surgery in state hospitals and the experiences are generally very positive.

Giovanni, sorry if I correct you but this is hard to understand, I’m afraid… :)

“a “bollino rosso” is given to you and have no lines” = “you are given the so-called bollino rosso so that you don’t have to wait”

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