The health system in Italy

health in Italy

Are you about to leave for Italy and are wondering how well your medical expenses will be covered once you are there? Learn about the Italian health care system and the administrative procedures depending on your situation.

The public health system

In Italy, health care benefits are provided by the National Health Service (SSN, Servizio Sanitario Nazionale). Due to decentralized management of the health system, the SSN is broken up into regional services. Local Sanitary Agencies (ASL, Azienda Sanitaria Locale), which are highly autonomous, are spread all over the peninsula. As resources are different from one region to another, strong regional disparities (quality of medical care, waiting lists…) exist.

Cover provided by the SSN

The National Health Service allows people who are entitled to public health benefits to access basic medical care for free:

  • GP consultations,
  • pediatrics,
  • obstetrics and gynecology care (contribution for patients whose income exceeds a specific threshold),
  • dental care,
  • hospitalization,
  • specific prescription drugs and pharmaceutical products.

To benefit from free health care, you need to seek treatment in care facilities under agreement with the SSN. All the other health care benefits (laboratory services, prostheses, consultations, most specialty consultations…) only are partially covered.

As public health care waiting lists often are extremely long, seeking private medical care sometimes becomes inevitable. In this case, seeing a GP costs between €50 and €80 and specialty consultations may cost up to €150.

Health cover for expats in Italy

Your health care cover in Italy depends on your situation, the length of your stay and/or your nationality.

If you are European and will be living in Italy for less than a year

Before you leave, ask for an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).

If you are going on secondment to Italy

During your assignment in Italy, you will continue to benefit from the Social security scheme of your home country.

To be entirely reimbursed, EHIC or your home Social security usually isn’t enough: applying for top-up health insurance for expats in Italy is recommended.

If you are settling in Italy

To benefit from the SSN, you need to be registered with the Local Sanitary Agency of your place of residence. You will need:

  • valid ID,
  • your tax identification number (codice fiscale),
  • to provide proof of residence,
  • to have chosen a GP.

You will then receive your health insurance card (Tessara sanitaria).

As you might often need to use private health care because of long waiting lists in the public health service, applying for an expatriate insurance solution from the 1st euro can be a worthwhile option. This will allow you to benefit from 100% cover for your heath expenses and to seek health care in the facility of your choice.

To find out more about the health system in Italy:

Access the list of Local Sanitary Agencies on the Italian Ministry of Health website.

Date of publication Oct 21 2013