Can you stay affiliated with your home country's health system?

Expat news
  • doctor and patient
Published on 2024-04-10 at 11:00 by Estelle
According to the current Italian prime minister, it could soon be possible for Italian expats to benefit from healthcare in Italy while living abroad. In fact, a bill proposed by the Fratelli d'Italia party aims to allow this against an annual contribution of 1,500 euros to the national health system (SSN). 

The aim is to rebalance the social security system, which is currently in dire straits, to provide health coverage to expatriates and, thus, encourage them to return to Italy.

Mixed opinions about this proposal

On the one hand, some see the possibility of maintaining access to a high-quality healthcare system known for its efficiency as a very positive development. This option would be an opportunity, especially for retired people and families with children. Most people should deem the annual contribution to be affordable. This law could be a game changer for expatriates who change countries regularly or live in a region where the quality of care is not as good as in Italy or where costs are higher.

However, some consider this proposal discriminatory against expatriates with lower income who may be unable to afford such a contribution. It is also seen as unnecessary, as the quality of healthcare in their host country is often better. For example, Federico, an Italian expatriate in Paris, explains that it is of little interest to him because healthcare in France is better than in Italy: "I don't see myself going to Italy for treatment when I'm in good health and can get very good services close to home without having to travel." His partner, Camille, who also spent several years abroad, continues: "If you live in a country with a similar situation to where you come from, it's not very interesting. If an Italian lives in the United States, a country where health care is costly, and for only 1,500 euros, it's possible to get dental work or an operation in Italy, then it might be worth it. But let's not forget that sometimes we need urgent care, and we don't always have the financial means or the time to return to Europe quickly."

The future of the proposal remains uncertain. Its adoption will depend, in particular, on the support of other political parties and public opinion. In the meantime, it may well continue to trigger debates and reflection within the expatriate community, whether Italian or not!

How does it work in other countries?

Several countries have systems allowing expatriates to benefit from partial or complete health coverage while living abroad. In particular, they aim to guarantee continuous access to health care wherever you are, thus offering stability and peace of mind. However, this is sometimes limited and subject to certain conditions.

In Europe, for example, German and Belgian expatriates can only maintain their social security coverage if they work for a German or Belgian company abroad. Similar situations exist in Asia, in countries such as Japan and South Korea. In France, the Caisse des Français à l'étranger (CFE) provides social security coverage for French expatriates. However, it remains expensive. On the other hand, the United States requires American expatriates to purchase private health insurance, as there is no government-sponsored health care system.

Finally, Australian expatriates can continue contributing to the health system by enrolling in the Overseas Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (OVHI) and paying a monthly contribution. Similarly, in New Zealand, expatriates can remain affiliated with the New Zealand health system but benefit from coverage only in the event of an accident by enrolling in the Non-Resident ACC Cover program and paying a monthly contribution.

Health coverage remains an essential issue for expats, and it's important to consider all factors before moving abroad or simply taking out private health insurance. This proposed law in Italy could trigger more debates and discussions on expat healthcare in different countries.