Accessing Healthcare in Italy

Home to many famous architectural landmarks, beautiful cities, and magnificent cuisine, Italy has clearly earned its place in the hearts of millions of travelers all over the world. From the ancient ruins of the Colosseum in Rome, to the romantic canals and Gothic palaces of Venice, to the capital of Renaissance art and architecture in Florence, to the famed haute couture of Milan, to the iconic Mt. Etna in Sicily, and to the rugged Mediterranean beaches of Sardinia, as well as many other interesting places, Italy is simply a country to behold.s

It is for this reason that embarking on a holiday vacation in Italy is best described as truly liberating. However, you have to really prepare for your travel documents such as your passport, visas, healthcare requirements, and travel insurance. You may also want to spend some time getting yourself acquainted with the healthcare system of Italy, as well as the 27 other countries of the European Union including Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland, the latter four comprising the European Free Trade Association. The reason for this is quite simple. One of the greatest sources of unplanned travel expenses is emergency medical care. You simply don’t know when you will get sick and how long you will be ill. You can only prepare yourself by learning what you should do in case you do require medical assistance.

The Italian healthcare system operates on a framework of equitable access to high quality care as seen in most other western democracies. The national health system (SSN) of Italy is a publicly-funded program whereby employed Italians have their employers take care of their tax contributions. For self-employed Italians, part of the amount paid in their tax declarations are earmarked for the SSN so they, too, are entitled to receive state-provided health and medical care. Italians who have made their contributions are provided with a healthcare card which they use to avail of low cost treatments, if not free, from state, public, or government hospitals, clinics, health offices, and doctors’ clinics. The coverage of this particular card includes their dependents including children and unemployed spouses. The healthcare benefits also include free or reduced-cost dental treatments from public institutions.

Individuals who don’t qualify for the SSN system will have to receive their medical treatments and health care services from the private sector. Private healthcare is quite expensive in Italy often more expensive by 75 percent compared to those provided in the public sector.

The European Health Insurance Card guarantees that you can receive medical or health treatments at recognized SSN-accredited hospitals, clinics, doctors, and dentists in the same manner as any other qualified Italian. However, if you don’t have an EHIC, then you face the prospect of paying very expensive medical and healthcare fees.

With the EHIC, you get free treatments for your illness, sickness, or even injury that you incurred while on a social visit to Italy. In some cases, the treatments may be provided for a fee but the cost is usually minimal. Do take note that the purpose of your travel is to enjoy the beauty of Italy and not specifically to obtain treatment. If your intention is the latter, then EHIC is not your solution as it will not cover your treatments. The same is true if you go to Italy just so you can deliver your baby. However, if you have a chronic medical condition or even require emergency obstetric services, you can use your EHIC just like any other Italian.

In the unfortunate event that you require emergency services, get your smartphone and dial 112. This will connect you to the Italian emergency response unit that can dispatch calls to the police, medical personnel, and the fire department. Other important numbers you can call include 118, if you require an ambulance service, and 170, if you find that the 112 operator cannot communicate well in English. The 1-7-0 toll-free number is designed specifically for English-speaking tourists and guests so they can communicate their medical needs a lot better.

The EHIC is a very important travel companion especially if you are heading to Italy. Get your EHIC before you make your travel plans. It’s easy to apply what with the digitalization of the application process. You can also use the instant service from MyEHIC to help take the hassle of application off of you so you can spend more time planning for your great Italian escapade. You can also have every member of your household applied for their own EHIC. Now, you can really have a great Italian family vacation.