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Doctors, Dentists and Other Health Services

Italy - Doctors, Dentists and Other Health Services

In Italy, it isn’t acceptable for patients to show up at a public practitioner’s clinic unannounced for the first time. Just like in the US and the UK, it is customary for all residents to get registered with a local doctor as their general practitioner or family doctor (medici generici).

Expats can get registered with the Italian National Health Service, known as Servizio Sanitorio Nazionale (SSN) for a national health number once they get their residence permit. Four documents are required by all expats, in order to get registered with the Servizio Sanitorio Nazionale. These include –

1. A residency document, which can be obtained from the local commune
2. The “Stato Di Famiglia” (Civil Status Certificate) for other family members to be registered. This document is available at the local commune
3. The “Codice Fiscale” (Fiscal Code Card, similar to Social Security Card), from the “Agenzia del’entrate”, the Italian tax collection agency
4. Identity card, which is issued by the Anagrafe office (registrar office of vital statistics)

If all the documentation is in place, expats can register with a local doctor for general medical assistance. Children below the age of 14 should be registered with a pediatrician.

A list of all doctors who are taking on patients is available at the Azienda Sanitaire Local (ASL), the local health care center. The officials at the center often help expats choose a doctor, based on gender preferences and their residence. Many expats simply refer to the doctors listed under Medici Generici in the yellow pages. However, it may be a bit of a challenge finding an English-speaking doctor from these sources. Fortunately, the British, American and Canadian embassies in Italy have a list of all the health care providers who can speak English.

After selecting a doctor, the health officials at ASL issue a slip, which needs to be presented for registration. Once the slip is accepted by the doctor, individuals are entitled to an appointment at no charge. Each member of the family is then given a health card, which should be carried for every visit.

An individual can choose to register with a different doctor at any time. Waiting lists to get registered with a doctor are not common, probably because Italy has the highest number of doctors per head in the world.

While the family doctor you are registered with will not charge for an appointment and general consultation, you will need to pay for any tests that are recommended. Private doctors charge patients for visits, consultation, medication and so on. Any expat can choose to consult a specialist or a private doctor, as long as they don’t mind paying for the services. Many patients visit private doctors when they want a second opinion. Unfortunately, some of the small towns, especially in the southern part of the country, only offer public healthcare system.

It Italy, it is common to see family doctors run a private practice too. Some of them may ask you to see them privately for special treatment. In such instances, they are likely to charge their standard fee, even if you are a registered patient. Private doctors generally charge an initial registration fee of €12.00 or so. Each visit may cost anywhere between €40.00 and €200.00.

Most of the dentists in Italy run their private practice. However, expats can make use of state-provided dental care at medical facilities operated by the SSN or the ASL.

All patients are expected to settle their bill immediately in cash, whether they have health insurance or not. The medical receipts can later be claimed by the insurance company or offset against the income tax bill.

The visiting ours for every medical facility may vary. Most doctors operate from 8:00AM to 10AM and then from 3:00PM to 5:00PM, from Monday to Friday. Patients are generally attended to on a first-come first-served basis, so appointments are not required. It is best to arrive early, to avoid a long wait. If required, doctors also conduct house calls. The services provided by public hospitals are quite basic as compared to private hospitals.

People in Italy can call for an ambulance at any time of the day by dialing 118. Some of the other important contact numbers include –

International Medical Center, Rome
Tel: +39 06 488 2371

International Health Center, Milan
Tel: +39 02 7200 4080

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Expat Health Insurance Partners

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