In the WHOs last health care ranking in 2000, Italy's healthcare system was regarded as the 2nd best in the world after France. The healthcare service in Italy (SSN = Servizio Sanitario Nazionale) is organized under the Ministry of Health and organized on a regional basis. Healthcare is provided to all citizens, EU and non EU by a mixed public-private system. Italian doctors are dedicated and well-trained and private hospitals in particular as good as in any other EU country.
Prescription drugs can be acquired only if prescribed by a doctor. If prescribed by the family doctor, they are generally subsidized, depending on the medicine type and on patient income (in many regions all the prescribed drugs are free for the poor). Over-the-counter drugs are paid out-of-pocket. Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs can only be sold in farmacias.
Visits by specialist doctors or diagnostic tests are provided by the public hospitals or by conventioned private ones, and if prescribed by the family doctor require only a copay (of the order of $40 for a visit without any diagnostic test) and are free for the poor. Waiting times are usually up to a few months in the big public facilities and up to a few weeks in the small conventioned private facilities. Patients, however, can opt for the "free market" option, provided by both public and private hospitals, which is paid completely out-of-pocket and has generally much shorter waiting times.
Many foreigners choose private insurance for healthcare in Italy, as waiting times are shorter than in the public system. The rooms in hospitals are often like 5-star hotels but the quality of the healthcare is usually the same as the public system.
EU citizens staying in Italy for more than three months must register with the SSN if they are:
An employee or self-employed
A family member (EU or non-EU) of an employee or self-employed person in Italy
A family member (EU or non-EU) of an Italian citizen
Has a permanent residence certificate obtained after at least 5 years residence in Italy
Registered as unemployed, or unemployed and enroled in a vocational program
Holders of an E106, E109 (or E37), E120, E121 (or E33) form
Foreign nationals required to register with the National Health Service (SSN) are those with a residence permit who are:
Enrolled in the unemployment listings
Also required to register are foreign nationals with a regular residence permit, or those renewing their permits for the following reasons:
Retirees who are EU citizens and are legally resident in Italy are entitled to register for state health insurance at no cost provided they have a Form E121. Form E121 should be obtained from the national health service of the former country of residence.
Foreign students who attend a course of studies in Italy can be registered with the ASL for the duration of their course. The costs of registration are borne by their home country.
Registering for healthcare
In order to register for the SSN, you need to have the following documents:
Residency document available from the local Commune
Stato di Famiglia document available from the local Commune (In order to register other family members)
Codice Fiscale available from the Agenzia delEntrate
Identity Card available from the Anagrafe office
You will then need to go to the Agenzie Sanitarie Locali (ASL) office and select a family doctor. Having registered, you will be given temporary documents allowing you to visit the doctor and access health services, while you wait for your Tessera Sanitaria.
Visits to a hospital will require registering at the reception desk armed with the usual documents: ID card, Tessera Sanitaria and Ricetta. Unless you are a pensioner or extremely poor, you will be required to make a small payment at this stage.
Emergencies are dealt with at the Pronto Soccorso department in the hospital.