Healthcare in Italy is provided on a universal basis to all Italian citizens and permanent residents. The Italian government regards healthcare as a fundamental right of all citizens, and ensures that high quality treatment is provided through the Servicio Sanitaris Nazionale, or SSN. All citizens and permanent residents are required to register with the SSN, which then ensures that everyone in the country is offered an equally high level of healthcare, regardless of ethnicity or social status.
Established in 1978, the SSN provides low cost healthcare to all residents of Italy. The healthcare structure in the country is provided in 3 different levels, all of which are overseen by the SSN. Local healthcare is overseen by primary physicians and hospitals which are directly responsible for treating patients and overseeing care in the immediate vicinity. Local healthcare providers are given funding on a regional level, which is the responsibility of the Provincial government. The regional government assesses the quality of treatment and the amount of patients who receive care at different facilities and apportions the appropriate budget. The entire system is overseen at the national level by the Ministry of Health, which is responsible for creating a national healthcare budget and creating healthcare policy.
While this system has proven to work since its creation, it has received a number of complaints in regards to its effectiveness. Long waiting times and a crowded bureaucratic process have meant that although the treatment quality is good, there is a severe time delay between patients being admitted to hospital and the point where they are receiving their healthcare. However, the benefits that Italian workers receive (cash benefits and paid sick leave, and non-cash benefits in the way of pharmaceutical and tertiary care) have helped many Italian nationals to overlook the twin issues of overcrowding and slow treatment times.
Foreign nationals who have newly arrived in Italy, however, are typically not eligible to receive healthcare under the SSN services, and will have to pay for all treatment. This often comes as a shock to expatriates in Italy who have been lead to believe that Italian healthcare services are low-cost or free. The reason for this is that newly arrived foreign nationals have not completed Italian residency requirements and as such are not eligible for coverage under the SSN, this means that they are forced to pay for all healthcare services, and outside of the national healthcare scheme, these services can often be extremely expensive.
There are two options in regards to foreign nationals and newly arrived expatriates obtaining healthcare treatment in Italy. The first is to use one of the government subsidized public hospitals. These facilities are less expensive to use than private medical facilities, however patients not covered by the SSN will still have to deal with lengthy waiting times, and a large amount of paperwork, and even though the cost is less, these facilities are not cheap for paying patients to use. The second option is to use one of Italy’s many high quality private hospitals or medical facilities, which will usually have a cost associated with treatment that is similar to costs in the USA and other expensive countries around the world. The benefit with using a private hospital or clinic in Italy is in the fact that waiting times are virtually eliminated, and due to the fact that these facilities are not dependant on government subsidies, the procedural factors are greatly decreased.
The only way to ensure that you have access to the quality healthcare that you deserve, in Italy or anywhere else in the world, is with a quality medical insurance plan. Italy expat health insurance that we can offer will afford you a number of coverage benefits including protection for hospitalization, out-patient and dental treatment, maternity cover, and emergency evacuation. While Italian healthcare services are typically of an extremely high standard it is important that you have the assurance that no matter what happens, you will always have the treatment that you need.
The healthcare system in Italy works on the principle that healthcare is a fundamental right of all citizens and that anyone registered with the nations social services (SSN) is entitled to receive free, high quality treatment. As such it is important that you take steps to protect yourself against the high costs of healthcare in Italy and throughout the rest of the world.
Italy Travel Tips
Italy is one of the world’s favorite tourist destinations, and while most visits are without incident, traveling to a new country can be difficult, especially if you do not know the local laws and customs. In an effort to help you better enjoy your stay in Italy we have provided some information about the country below.
Please be advised that the information contained on this page is meant for reference purposes only and may change without prior warning. For the most up-to-date information about traveling in Italy, please consult a travel expert.
There is, at present, a global threat of terrorism. Attacks in Italy could be indiscriminate and occur any time. Italian authorities believe that if a terrorist attack occurs it may target popular tourist areas and high level Italian officials. In the event of a terrorist attack while you are in the country, please follow all official directions and announcements.
There is a high chance that a major labor strike may occur while you are in the country, potentially affecting any travel plans that you may have. Listen to local Italian media for more information about transport strikes and plan your trip accordingly.
There is a low overall level of crime throughout Italy. It is important to note that despite this however; there are a high number of incidents with foreign nationals requiring consular assistance for lost or stolen passports. Take care in, and around, major rail hubs and airports, never leave your belongings unattended, and never travel alone, especially at night.
If you wish to drive while in Italy you should possess a valid European Union, or International, driving license. Failure to produce a driving permit that is valid in Italy may result in an on-the-spot fine or jail.
Different Italian cities will have different rules regarding public conduct. These will typically be available upon arrival at hotels/hostels. Two cities with the strictest rules regarding conduct in public places are Florence and Venice. In these cities the following rules will apply;
Littering in public will result in an on-the-spot fine. Do not do it.
Do not eat in public courtyards, or on church steps, this will result in a fine.
Do not buy counterfeit goods from street hawkers. The Italian government is currently taking strong measures against black market goods, and purchasing these products could result in a fine or jail sentence.
Citizens of European Union member nations do not need a visa in order to travel to Italy, but must possess a valid passport. The entry requirements for other nationalities may be different; it is recommended that you check with the Italian government prior to your arrival about what documents you will need.
You should ensure that your passport is valid for the duration of your stay in Italy. If it is not, then you may be denied entry upon arrival.
At present there is a threat from the Chikungunya virus in the Ravenna area of Emilia Romagna. Please take all due precautions and consult a medical professional before traveling to this region.
Italy is prone to a number of natural disasters, some of which may occur while you are in the country. Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Floods are all major concerns. Listen for announcements concerning natural disasters in your area, and follow all official directions.
When traveling to a new country it can be good to know some general information about the nation which you are visiting. With this in mind we have provided some broad outlines about Italy below.
Please be aware that the information contained herein is meant for reference purposes only and is liable to change without prior warning. For up to date information about Italy , please consult an expert.
Official Name: The Italian Republic , or simply Italy .
Capital: The capital of Italy is Rome , one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. Historical evidence has found that Rome has been continually inhabited since the 8 th century BC, and as a home to the Etruscan, Roman, and Renaissance Italian civilizations, has played a major role in the development of western civilization. Rome is also home to the independent state of the Vatican City , the home to the Catholic Church.
Location : Located in South-Central Europe, Italy is a boot shaped peninsula that extends into the Mediterranean Sea . Italy shares land borders with Austria , Slovenia , Switzerland , Monaco , and France and lays claim to the two Mediterranean Islands of Sicily and Sardinia .
Size: With a total size of 301,230 square kilometers Italy occupies an area slightly larger than the American State of Arizona . Italy is the 78 th largest country in the world in terms of total size.
Climate: The Italian climate can change radically throughout the country. Coastal regions often have mild winters and dry summers while the northern inland provinces experience an Alpine climate, not dissimilar to Switzerland and Austria . Generally the best time to visit Italy is during spring or autumn when the weather tends to be dry and sunny.
Population: With a total population of approximately 58 million, Italy has the 25 th largest population in the world. The population of Italy dramatically increases during the summer as millions of tourists flock to the country from all over the world; expect large crowds during the summer months, especially August.
Life expectancy at birth: With and average life expectancy at birth of 79.94 years, Italy has the 15 th highest life expectancy in the world. This is mainly due to the high quality of social services in the country and recent studies have shown that healthy Mediterranean cuisine has played a major role in the health of the Italian population.
Prevalence of HIV/AIDS: Approximately 0.5% of the Italian population is living with HIV/Aids. In real terms this is equivalent to approximately 140,000 people. Italy has the 73 rd highest HIV/Aids rate in the world.
Major illnesses: As a developed first world country the disease risk in Italy is fairly limited. The major healthcare concerns stem for seasonal illnesses such as Heat stroke in the summer and hypothermia in the winter. At present there is a global risk of Bird Flu and all travelers should take appropriate precautions.
Ethnic Groups: Italy is a fairly homogenous society with approximately 95% of the population claiming Italian ethnicity. The remaining 5% of the population are of Euro-Italian descent with the largest ethnicities being German-Italian, French-Italian, Slovene-Italian, Albanian-Italian, and Greek-Italian.
Languages: The official language of Italy is Italian, however due to the country's location and the historical contest of the region; a number of other languages are spoken throughout the nation. Languages spoken in Italy include; Italian, German, French, and Slovene.
Religion: Located in Italy is the Independent State of the Vatican City, the home of the Catholic Church, as such it is no surprise that approximately 90% of all Italians identify themselves as being catholic (only one third of this number actively attend catholic church services). The remaining 10% of the Italian population observes a number of religions including Protestant Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Government: Italy is a Republic; this is a system of government whereby the populace of a country has direct influence on the overall running of the country. A republic is a type of government without a monarch as the head of state; typically the head of state of a republic is called the President.
Head of State: President Giorgio Napolitano is the leader of the Italian State .
Head of Government: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is the head of the government. In Italy the prime minister is also referred to as the president of the council of ministers.
Military: Italy has an extremely comprehensive military that receives a budget equivalent to approximately 1.8% of the nations total GDP. There are approximately 13 million men in Italy who are currently fit for military service.
Economy : The Italian Economy is one of the strongest in the world. With the 7 th highest GDP in the world, behind countries such as the USA , UK , France , China , Japan and Germany , Italy has proven that it is a modern country with an extremely well developed capitalistic economy. Despite the nations slow economic growth, and dependence on overseas imports (mainly in the areas of raw materials and energy), the Italian government is taking steps, and introducing legislation to help the country become more competitive in the modern world.
There are some serious issues facing the Italian economy including high taxes, an influx of immigrants, and a labor force controlled by unions. All of which have contributed to a slowdown in the nations market growth. However, with large foreign investment and one of the strongest tourism industries in the world, Italy is attempting to change its easy going Mediterranean image and become one of the most competitive economies in the world.
GDP: With a purchasing power parity of US$ 1.8 trillion and an actual GDP of US$ 1.862 trillion, Italy is the 7 th largest economy in the world.