Of course, you don’t have to rely solely on public health facilities. Like many Italians, you can avail of the parallel private medical service—known as the assicurazione sulla salute—that caters for patients covered by private medical insurance.
However, in some small towns, particularly in the south, you will only be able to access the public health system—private doctors and hospitals congregate in bigger cities where residents are more likely to have private medical insurance.
According to rankings, the best medical care, especially in an emergency situation, is likely to be found in the northern hospitals in cities like Milan and in central Italy near or in Rome. Reportedly, English-speaking doctors are particularly easy to come by in Rome and Milan as well.
Italy has a national health plan (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale), which provides for hospital and medical benefits. In Italy, healthcare is considered a right and the national health plan is designed to provide for all Italian citizens and residents, including Australian citizens who are legal residents of Italy.
With the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale most care is free or low-cost, including consultations with a general physician, hospital visits, lab work and medications. However, each region is responsible for managing its own care, so expect differences between regions and carefully research the specific region you want to retire in.
Though costs vary based on a number of factors, including region and whether you have private insurance or not, expats report costs as reasonable. One expat couple based in the south reports paying just $308 per year to cover their health insurance. And hospital visits are reportedly free in urgent cases. In non-urgent cases, a small fixed payment may be expected.
For over-the-counter medications in Italy, you’ll need to visit a pharmacy. Look for the large green crosses (often lit up) which mark them out. Pharmacists in Italy are used to consulting with patients, so if you aren’t sure what kind of medication you need or what the equivalent of an Australian brand is, just ask the pharmacist. In general, you’ll find many of them speak English very well.