The Italian Local Healthcare Insurance System
Since 1978, the Italian local healthcare system has been administered by the National Health Service which provides universal health coverage via the implementation of the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale
(SSN). Every resident in Italy can register free of charge with the SSN. Since 1998, the entire SSN system is funded by the regions through a regional tax. Therefore each region is responsible for maintaining its own financial balance.
The SSN only covers routine care: general medicine, pediatrics, dental care, gynecology, hospitalization, etc. Patients do not have to pay for their consultation as the doctor is paid directly by the region.
In general, the Italian healthcare system provides quality medical care.
Doctors’ visits in Italy
As part of the universal health coverage, referring GPs
(medico di famiglia
) see their patients in local health units (USL). They are all State-registered but are either civil servants or have their private practice. Insured members are free to choose their own referring GP.
Consultations with State-registered doctors in local health units are free.
As the public healthcare system provides free care, it is often overcrowded and there may be long waiting times whereas in the private system, waiting times are shorter but doctors’ fees are much higher.
If you are not registered with the SSN and consult a doctor from the private system, you will have to pay between €50 and €80 for a consultation with a GP.
In Italy, few doctors speak English but some medical facilities intended for tourists provide English-speaking medical staff.
You can only see specialist doctors
after being referred by the GP. Fees range from 13 to 36 euros on average for consultations in local health units (USL) by State-registered specialists.
As for the private sector, consultation fees vary from €100 to €200.
Being admitted to the hospital in Italy
Italian public hospitals
Hospitalization is free in registered facilities. For more comprehensive examinations, you will have to pay a copayment of around €36.
Italian private hospitals
Medical care and treatments provided in private hospitals are not better than those offered in public hospitals but waiting times are shorter. Hospitalization expenses will be supported by patients and their costs may vary significantly from one hospital to another.
To be admitted to these private hospitals, it is recommended to have health insurance coverage with a private insurer.
Emergency services in Italy
In case of emergency, dial 118.
Emergency services are open 24 hours a day and are free in public hospitals.
Buying drugs in Italy
If you are registered with the SSN system, you will only have to pay a part of the prescribed drugs. This out-of-pocket amount (expressed as a percentage of the drug price) is calculated according to the category of drugs you have been prescribed.
10% for group A: antibiotics, cortisone, painkillers (other than aspirin), etc.
50% for group B: certain anti-inflammatories, hormone treatments, etc.
100% for group C: cough syrup, aspirin, cough lozenges, vitamins, etc.
Last reviewed on March 2013