As a Type I Diabetic, since the age of 9, finding out if health care would be attainable and affordable for me as a resident was paramount! Through some online research, I found that health care was essentially free for those working in Italy. However, under my specific visa, I cannot work. I began to get a little nervous, but soon found out that health care coverage was about $400 per person….per year! I was ecstatic! I was completely flabbergasted to find out that those with chronic illnesses (eg. cancer, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, etc) do not pay anything. I pay nothing to see my endocrinologist, I pay nothing for my pump supplies, I pay nothing for my insulin and nothing for my testing supplies. It is the Italian mindset that if you are suffering health-wise, you should not be worried about paying for quality care. Everyone deserves great healthcare, regardless of income. Even if you don’t have healthcare, all emergency care is taken care of by the government. So if you have to go to the ER, you don’t need to worry about “How much is this going to cost me.” Before I was laid off, I was paying about $700 a month for our family, plus a $3000 out of pocket deductible per person before any coverage began. That means OBGyn visits and even normal yearly check-ups had to be paid in full and in advance. All prescriptions were paid in full and in advance until I came out of pocket $3000. My diabetes pump supplies were $250/month. My insulin was about $350/month and my testing supplies were $50/month.
You might ask how does the cost of public healthcare compare with private? When I first arrived, I needed to make an appointment with and endocrinologist (diabetes doctor). It had to be in the private sector because I had not completed all the necessary immigration docs to get on public health care. I was shocked to find out the price was only $50 for FOUR visits! The out of pocket expense for my insulin was only $25 a vial! It was cheaper than my CO-PAY in the States! So even if you did go private, I would extrapolate that the costs would still be significantly less than domestic ones in America. It might even be true that costs without national coverage in the private network, could be far less than what you’d incur in America with health insurance.
There are some differences in the way things are done here:
- When you need to see a doctor in the States, you call, make and appointment and wait. Here, you just go and take a number. The longest I’ve ever waited here was about 45 minutes. You can always be seen the same day.
- There’s no copay for normal visits. For specialists, there’s a one-time 35€ charge.
- You need a referral from your PCP to see a specialist. I guess that’s not really different from the states
- Coverage is done on an annual basis and is not prorated. Everyone’s healthcare expires on Dec 31st is the same price no matter if you sign up in Jan or Oct.
- Prescriptions are filled monthly and you must have a form from your doctor’s office each month. Now, you don’t need to see the doctor for the refills, you just see the office receptionist, but it is an added step to the process I’m familiar with back home.
- Medicine is bought at the pharmacy only. You want ibuprofen? acetaminophen? You don’t need a prescription, but you can only get it from the pharmacy
- Sometimes they call you! I was called by my diabetes doctor and told when to come in and what time for a check up. Lol. I happened to be free, so I didn’t push back, but I was a little caught off guard.
If you need to sign up for health care, you’ll be happy to know that it’s easy and fast. Here are the steps:
- Locate your local ASL office. Google is your friend here. 😉
- Go in person and find out the amount of healthcare for your region, the bank code (conto corrente) and name associated with the account.
- Go to the post office and fill out a wire form. Here’s an example:
- Take that form along with a photo copy of your permesso di soggiorno back to the ASL office. Ask around for a good local Primary Care Physician, PCP, and bring that name with you when you sign up. In 5 minutes of sitting down with the worker, they will print a temporary card. Your healthcare is effective immediately.
- In about a week you will receive your Tessera Sanitaria.