Health care

Italian Health Care System is ranked amongst the best in the World

Italy has a national, universal health care system, called the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, or simply SSN. The SSN covers all Italian citizens and legal foreign residents residing in the country. It provides a full range of health care services which is either free or offered at a lower cost compared to market prices at the point of service and is guided by the principles of universal coverage, solidarity, human dignity, and health for all.

Italy’s national universal health care system is consistently ranked among the best in the world. Life expectancy is the 8th highest in the world according to WHO (82.8 years in 2018). This is no coincidence, because it is as a result of successful welfare measures and well-established health care policies.

If you are one of those planning to relocate to Italy, understanding Italian Health Care System is important in order to get treatment in case of health concerns. This blog post provide detail information about the Italian Health Care System, how to benefit from it, its coverage, limitations and others.

Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN)

This is the public health care system in Italy. SSN is managed at regional level and financed by residents through collected taxes. Basic care is provided in local health units, with the names of these centers varying from region to region: Azienda Sanitaria Locale(ASL) is commonly referred to at the national level.

All Italian citizens and legal foreign residents residing in the country has the free choice of the general practitioner but a specialist doctor can only be consulted on prescription of the general practitioner. Hospitalization is free in approved establishments, but can only be done on the prescription of the general practitioner or of an approved specialist. In case of an emergency, it is possible to go directly to the hospital.

In case of an emergency, it is possible to go directly to the hospital.

How to Access Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN)

To access the Italian health care system, you must first register with the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN). For this, you must go to the local health care unit of your place of residence. Each insured person will obtain a health card or Tessera Sanitaria there.

How Do I register with Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN)

If you are an EU citizen residing in Italy, you must have health insurance. After having enrolled at the local registry office, EU citizens can register with the SSN by visiting any of the local health unit in their place of residence (registration is voluntary).

Non EU citizens can register with the national, universal health care system (SSN) and enjoy the same rights as those provided to Italian citizens or EU citizens by visiting any of the local health unit in their place of residence. Foreign nationals are issued with a health card when they register. This card allows the holder access to all services. Registration with the SSN has the same duration as the residence permit.

Documents to be presented:

  • photocopy of a valid residence permit;
  • substitute declaration for residency and family status;
  • tax code

What are the Services of the Italian SSN

The Italian SSN covers:

  • General medical and dental care (certain medical certificates are subject to pricing) with registered practitioners;
  • Care from specialist specialists (with a minimum participation of 34 euros);
  • Hospital care in approved establishments;
  • Prescription drugs with a minimum participation of 3.10 euros per prescription (note that some drugs are not reimbursed at all);
  • Partial coverage of certain services (prostheses, cures, laboratory examinations, orthopedic care, etc.)


Italian Health Care is provided in regional health care centers or by doctors approved by the SSN. The insured person has the possibility of choosing his initial general practitioner and he can change it once a year maximum. If another doctor is chosen then the insured will not be reimbursed. There are public dispensaries and approved private establishments which offer specialized care, in particular dental or orthopedic care.

Italian Health Care Pit Falls

Italy’s national universal health care system is amongst the best in the world, but nevertheless it presents a certain number of negative points like:

  • It is possible to obtain a consultation of a specialist doctor only after the consultation of a general practitioner, thus lengthening the deadlines;
  • The insured can only choose a registered practitioner which can be binding;
  • Except emergency, the admission to the hospital is made on prescription of a general practitioner or an approved specialist;
  • Wait times in the public sector can be very long;
  • Due to the decentralization of the Italian health care system, there are many inequalities between regions in terms of access and quality of care. Some hospitals are below average quality standards (richer North and poorer South);
  • Care is not entirely free in the end and a minimum participation will be required for each service, service or medication.

As a result of some or all of these reasons, many residents living in Italy, who have the means and can afford it are resorting to the private health care system, in addition to or as an alternative to the public health care system.

I would like to hear from you: What are your thoughts on this subject. You can share your thoughts and experiences with me and others in the comments section below!

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