Expat Healthcare in Italy

Expat Healthcare in Italy

Moving to Italy and want to know more about how the healthcare system works for you as a British Expat? Then look no further and take a look through our helpful guide.

Cheryl Hislop · 5 minute read

The great news is that Italy ranks among the World Health Organization’s top 10 countries for quality health services. So, if you’re thinking of moving to Italy, this news will hopefully put your mind at rest!

Of course, there’s a mix of options, with public healthcare in place, and private healthcare options too. For some expats, this is the most important consideration when relocating and seeking to settle. As with most things in Italy, it takes a bit of time to understand and organise, but it’s one less thing to worry about when it’s resolved!

It can be a hard area to navigate, so we’ve put together an overview of the public healthcare system and all that is covered for nationals and holders of residence permits, as well as the option of the private sector.
Grab a coffee, or tea, and read through these questions and answers to help you to work through this important area.

What is the SSN healthcare system in Italy?

The Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN), is the national health service, established in 1978 to provide tax subsidized health care via a mix public – private system. The SSN is funded through a combination of income tax and government funding. As it’s open to Italian citizens as well as foreign residents, it’s worth considering if you are going to be living in Italy over a longer period.

What does the SSN in Italy provide?

The service covers pretty much everything you can think of. Hospitalisation and treatment, visits to family doctors and specialists, discounted medication, laboratory services, and ambulance services are covered by the SSN.

EU and non-EU nationals making National Insurance contributions can register with the SSN, through the local health authority, Azienda Sanitaria Locale (ASL). There’s also the option to pay voluntary contributions to access the SSN, but these vary depending on your circumstances, where you live, and how you contribute into the overall system. You’d need to check these locally.

Bear in mind, regardless of your status in Italy, everyone is entitled to free emergency care, but not all treatment is free, some treatments come with a cost. Some Italian citizens and residents have supplementary private health insurance for specific needs. The choice is up to you.

What’s the process of registration for Italian Healthcare?

Let’s get through some technicalities next. When you sign up at the ASL, they will ask you who you want your doctor to be. If you have no idea, they will assign one to you but it might be worth speaking to friends and anyone you know locally to see if any doctors come recommended.

Once you have paid and gathered all your documents, your carta residencia, residency card and your codice fiscale, tax number, ensure that you have copies of these, and your passport. Take these, and the originals, to your ASL office. Usually there’s no need to make an appointment – just can just take a number once you arrive.

Once you have chosen your family doctor, you show them your registration papers with the SSN. Until you gain permanent residency, your Health card, Tessera Sanitaria, will need to be renewed every year, and you need take it with you to all appointments, whether at the surgery or hospital.

Will my new GP in Italy speak English?

It’s always worthwhile learning basic Italian to be able to communicate your issues as not all doctors speak English or other languages. If you struggle while there, don’t be embarrassed to use Google Translate for more difficult medical needs! It does help! This is particularly important in more rural areas, whereas, in main cities, there’s a greater chance of multi-lingual doctors.

Doctors tend to work at small practices, each with its own office hours, and you’ll need to check your doctor is a medico convenzionato, which means they have an agreement in place with social security, and then you don’t have to pay for using their services.

Do non-EU citizens register with the SSN in Italy?

Yes, absolutely! Any foreign nationals who are employees, the self-employed and those enrolled in the unemployment listings are required to register with the SSN, alongside those for family and humanitarian reasons and political asylum.

And what about EU citizens?

Yes, with any stay of more than three months, you must register with the SSN if you are employed, self-employed, registered as unemployed, on a vocational program, the holder of an S1 form, permanent resident, a family member (EU or non-EU) of an employee or self-employed person in Italy, or the family member is a spouse, dependent child under 21-years, or a dependent parent. That’s quite a list! Do check for up-to-date information prior to coming to Italy though.

When is it voluntary to join the SNN?

Voluntary enrolment applies to the following:

• Managers of a company with the headquarters in Italy. • Workers of a company with the headquarters abroad. • Holders of stay permits valid for more than three months (such as business, artists, and the like).

How do prescriptions work in Italy?

Here’s more good news! Medicines provided by your prescription, from your GP are offered at a subsidised rate, and sometime for free. This includes antibiotics, painkillers and any longer-term medication you may need. Luckily, the pharmacies are well-stocked with most common drugs and treatments, and if yours aren’t instantly available, they’ll order and courier this into the pharmacy with efficiency! Bear in mind that any over-the-counter medicines or treatments are not subsidised.

Okay, we’re talking about humans, but it’s handy to note that pet prescriptions are also handled by the pharmacy, if not via your veterinary practice. These are not subsidised, and can be expensive. It may be worthwhile exploring online options for comparable treatments that don’t need a prescription to keep costs down.

Where can I go to find private insurance?

One of the best options is to contact some of the larger private healthcare providers as plans are varied and prices and services will depend upon your needs. Examples include:

Axa - https://assicurazioneonline.axa.it/ or www.axa.com

Cigma - https://www.cignaglobal.com/

Aetna - Health Insurance Plans | Aetna

What about healthcare in Italy after Brexit?

For those already in Italy, the Brexit agreement covers UK resident expats, already in Italy and registered as such, before the end of 2020. In Italy, you’ll receive the same healthcare as an Italian citizen. There are still some question marks about how this will work moving forwards.

What’s the S1 form and does that entitle me to healthcare in Italy?

To be entitled to an S1 form, you must have either a UK state pension or another form of exportable benefit. You really need this form if you’re entitled to it, because of the benefits:

Continued access to healthcare in an EU Country Treatments in other EU countries Access to the NHS when visiting the UK

What healthcare cover will I have when I arrive in Italy?

If you’re relocating to Italy, you’re not going to be able to join the SSN immediately, as there are other procedures that need to happen first. In fact, it can take up to five months to get into the Healthcare system, so a short-term private plan may be worthwhile. If the worst happens and you need hospital treatment, you will be expected to pay full hospital charges and claim a reimbursement later from your private insurance provider.

Another watch out, is the cost, so have an emergency fund to hand. Credit cards are usually not accepted, although most hospitals will agree to bill patients after discharge. Fingers crossed, that this doesn’t happen to you!

As with most aspects of preparing to relocate, checking out the options for healthcare is recommended early on in the process. Once, you’re in the system though, either through public, private or a mix of options, you’ll have access to a first-class healthcare system of which, many countries are envious!