Registration in the Italian statutory health insurance service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, or SSN) is mandatory for all citizens and foreigners residing in the country for more than 3 months. Registered individuals can then benefit from almost free healthcare, except for cases where they access the private or intramoenia (private practice carried out in hospital) health system. In this case, the expenses incurred are only covered through complementary health insurance.
Health insurance for expats in Italy
The health insurance system in Italy
The Italian SSN health system gives registered people access to all basic medical care services free of charge, including:
General practitioner consultations with an SSN-registered physician (chosen for a minimum of 12 months);
Specialist consultations with an SSN-registered doctor referred by the attending physician;
Dental care, again, on referral from the GP;
Hospitalisation, in a public hospital or in a private hospital under agreement;
Some prescription drugs.
Some care, however, involves a copayment from the insured (called a ticket). This is particularly the case for specialist consultations, for which the out-of-pocket expense amounts to a maximum of €38.
The following services are not covered by the SSN:
GP consultations provided by a doctor other than the attending physician (unless the attending physician is not available, or in case of emergency);
Care provided by a specialist who is not SSN-registered, or accessed without prior referral by the GP;
In general, consultations or hospitalisations carried out under the private system (outside of SSN), where rates can be extremely high, from one doctor or institution to another.
How to choose health insurance in Italy: local or international?
In order to get reimbursed for their out-of-pocket expenses, as well as total or partial coverage of care not covered by the SSN, most foreign residents in Italy choose to take out private health insurance, which is sometimes covered by their employers.
However, make sure to check the specific conditions set out in local contracts, as most of them exclude dental care (which is covered by special insurance) and sometimes even the coverage of pre-existing pathologies at the time of registration, impose significant caps on the amounts covered according to each type of care, and apply deductibles.
The benefits and services of international health insurance are often more comprehensive and better tailored to the needs of expats.