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Healthcare in Italy

Introduction to Healthcare in Italy. Learn accessibility conditions, differences with private healthcare and more.

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Does Italy have a national health service?

The Italian Healthcare System is a great matter of pride for Italian citizens. Healthcare in Italy is public and accessible to everyone, without any discrimination based on income, gender or age.

The Italian Healthcare System was first introduced on December 23, 1978 with Law No. 833. The founding principles of Italian healthcare are universality, solidarity of financingthrough general taxationand equitable access to services. All the laws that regulate the Italian NHS (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale) are made in compliance with art. 32 of the Italian Constitution.

Below you will find everything you need to know about public health insurance in Italy, how you can access and the differences with private healthcare.

How does health insurance work in Italy?

The healthcare system in Italy is based on 3 guiding principles of “universality, equality and solidarity”. The aim is to achieve uniform levels of care throughout national territory, equitable access to services for all citizens and fiscal solidarity as the fundamental way of financing the health system.

This is an extraordinary societal achievement and a key indicator of a country’s social and democratic development.

Only a minority of countries around the world deliver this type of healthcare to all citizens, without any discrimination.

The Italian NHS provides high-quality healthcare to all citizens for hospital care, emergency care and primary care provided by general practitioners and paediatricians. In addition, the NHS covers a wide range of pharmaceuticals and all the hospital and diagnostic services essential for health.

Moreover, healthcare in Italy is managed at a regional level by local authorities – Azienda Sanitaria Locale (ASL) – that supply healthcare services.

Regional Health Authorities may have different names, depending on the region. For instance, in Emilia-Romagna is called AUSL – Azienda Unità Sanitaria Locale.

How to get health insurance in Italy?

Italian citizens residing in Italy are entitled to free health care registration with the NHS.

This right is extended to certain categories of residents abroad, if they are in possession of appropriate documentation, as determined by bilateral agreements on health care, in force between the various States.  

A specific procedure applies in the case of Italian citizens accessing healthcare abroad in countries that do not have an agreement with Italy

In addition, EU workers and their dependents are entitled to free health care registration, as well as non-EU citizens holding specific residence permits.

Foreigners who are legally residing in Italy but not entitled to free healthcare can apply for voluntary enrolment into the NHS.  

Such voluntary enrolment is done through the payment of an annual contribution, as determined by Article 1, paragraph 240 of Low No. 213 of December 30, 2023.  

Enrollment procedure for the Italian Healthcare

The enrollment in the National Health Service offers access to hospitals and medical examinations. Enrollment is mandatory for all Italian citizens.

When citizens enroll in the NHS, they are also granted a family doctor. Family doctors are particularly useful when in need of prescriptions for drugs and/or medical examination.

In fact, citizens need a prescription for booking an appointment with a specific specialist. In this case, a small fee applies. Moreover, each specialist doctor has a waiting list that varies based on the type of examination.

As regards the prescription of drugs, this is mandatory for specific categories (i.e. antibiotics), but not for others (i.e. paracetamol).

How much does it cost to go to hospital in Italy?

Access to the healthcare in Italy is public. This means that anytime citizens need a medical examination, therapy or surgery, they can go to a public hospital and access the service through a relatively low fee.

With “relatively” we mean that obviously the perception of the fee service changes based on the individual. However, with “low” fee we mean a true difference in price, as opposed to other health services abroad.

Ticket is the term used in Italy that refers to the fee payment to access the medical examination. The ticket depends on the citizen’s income.

For the treatment of serious and chronic diseases, the Italian NHS offers drugs free of charge, including last-generation innovative medicines.

Cost of Italian Healthcare for children

Italy is one of the few countries in Europe that allows families to choose their paediatrician at no cost to them for all children aged 0 to 14 years.

When do you lose the right to healthcare in Italy?

Italian citizens who transfer their residence to a foreign state may lose their right to healthcare upon cancellation from the Italian registry office, with their AIRE registration.  

However, in some specific cases it is possible to continue availing from healthcare while living abroad.

Do I need medical insurance for travel to Italy?

If you are a foreigner visiting Italy as a tourist, you may decide to purchase private medical insurance, to cover potential risks during your stay.  

Having a private health insurance becomes a mandatory requirement, when applying for certain types of Italian visas.   

Italian health insurance card

What is the health ID card in Italy? 

The Italian Revenue Agency issues the National Health Card (Tessera Sanitaria Nazionale) to all Italian residents that have the right to receive health assistance by the NHS.

The Card is also valid in all the EU Member States.

Is tessera sanitaria health insurance?  

The Italian Health Insurance Card includes the tax code issued by the Italian Revenue Agency. Citizens mainly use it to see doctors and to buy medicines. It may be also useful anytime residents have to show their tax code.

Before it expires, the Italian Revenue Agency automatically sends Italian residents a new Insurance Card.

In general, the Card validity is usually of 6 years but may be shorter in specific cases (i.e. for foreigners with a limited residence permit).

In June 2022, through Resolution No. 25/E, the Revenue Agency provided clarification regarding the assignment of a tax code to undocumented and unaccompanied foreign minors, for the purpose of their registration with the National Health System.

Do I need an EHIC card for Italy?

The back of the Italian Insurance Card represents the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

The Italian EHIC card is used to take advantage of health care services in Europe, specifically to access medically necessary treatment, if that is provided by the country of destination.  

Specifically, coverage is provided in the 27 EU Member States, as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.  

For more information about the coverage, please check our article dedicated to the EHIC.  

Private healthcare in Italy

Unfortunately, sometimes the waiting lists to access Italian public health services are quite long. Therefore, more and more people decide to turn to the private healthcare, which can be really expensive because citizens have to pay for the entire fee.

Regardless of the cost, Italian private healthcare is highly considered. For this reason, an increasing number of people choose to stipulate a private health insurance in Italy. Private healthcare insurance grants easier access to private hospitals or clinics.

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Regulatory Framework

Law n. 833, 23rd December 1978

Reference (Italian only)

Art. 32 Italian Constitution

Reference (Italian only)

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