Healthcare in Italy


Italy has a fantastic healthcare system but the standard of healthcare varies from region to region. This is because public healthcare is managed on a provincial, rather than a national level, so the treatments and services offered varies greatly. Private healthcare is a popular alternative for many expats.

The National Health Service.

Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, or ‘SSN’, is Italy’s national health service, which provides residents with free and low-cost healthcare which covers GPs, treatments, subsidised medication, and specialist care. This is funded through national income taxes and regional VAT, and generally provides a very high standard of care. Note that all expats living in Italy with a residency permit are entitled to the same treatment as Italian citizens but you will need to register with the SSN in your local district at your local health authority (Azienda Sanità Locale) with a valid ID, your tax code, a letter from your employer, and your residency permit. Once you have registered, you will be issued a national health number and a health card, which will enable you to receive free healthcare from a doctor or alternative healthcare provider.

 Good to know:

Expats who are EU nationals can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to gain access to public healthcare services in Italy.

Private healthcare (Assicurazione sulla salute)

Private procedures in Italy can be extremely expensive since the Ministry of Health sets a minimum charge for all operations in this sector. It is therefore advisable to take out health insurance if you wish to receive private healthcare. Despite the additional cost, there are many advantages to receiving private healthcare, including less waiting time, and greater choice of facilities and specialists. It is advisable to avoid using a company which reserves the rights to cancel a policy when you have a serious illness or when you reach a particular age as it can be difficult to find alternative cover. Some of the largest insurance companies in Italy include Europa AssistanceFilo DirettoPronto Assistance, and Sanicard.

 Good to know:

You should check with your employer to see whether they finance private healthcare for their employees.

Prescriptions and medicines

Under the SSN, medication prescribed by a GP is provided at a subsidised rate or free of cost. For example, you will need to make a co-payment for prescription medicines like antibiotics, insulin, and hormone treatments. Over the counter medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are full-price.


For emergency medical services, you can dial 118 but English-speaking operators might not be available. If you don't speak enough Italian to communicate in such as emergency, you can call 112, an emergency number serving all of Europe. The arrival of emergency services in life-threatening situations can vary from eight minutes in cities to a maximum of 20 minutes in rural areas.

Finding a doctor in Italy

You may have some issues finding a doctor who can speak English in your local area. It’s worth checking with your local embassy and the Medici Genericini in the yellow pages.

Most surgeries operate from Monday to Friday, with a first-come-first-served policy rather by appointment.  

Emergency care

Emergency healthcare is available to everybody in Italy, regardless of whether they have state health insurance. You should dial 118 if you are unable to get to the hospital yourself.

Specialist care

SSN provides access to specialist care delivered through public hospitals, although you will likely need to pay a small fee for examinations. You will also need a referral from your GP.

 Good to know:

Students can enrol in the SSN system on a voluntary basis by paying an annual fee of around €150.

 Useful links:

Ministry of Health - Health System 
Database of Health Facilities  
European Health Insurance Card 
Stranieri in Italy

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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