National Health Service and Private Health Insurance: Which one to Choose?

The National Health Service and private health insurance are the system’s response to the need to guarantee medical care for citizens. The basic principle on which the right to health is based is enshrined in Article 32 of the Italian Constitution. This states that the Republic protects health as a fundamental right of the individual and the community and guarantees medical services to all citizens in the national territory.

The Differences Between the National Health Service and Private Health Insurance

The National Health Service and private health insurance differ from each other, both in material and purely operational terms. SSN is valid for a calendar year and, regardless of when it is taken out, always expires on December 31 of each year. It includes the right to a family doctor and co-payment to benefit from all scheduled health services.

Private insurance coverage for foreign nationals, on the other hand, has a six-month or annual term. It begins from the date of application for a Residence Permit or, if taken out by a citizen of the European Union, from the date of application for civil registration made with the municipality in which one intends to apply for residence.

Documents to Subscribe to the National Health Service

To subscribe to the SSN, the following documents must be presented to the relevant Local Health Authority:

  • ID
  • certificate of residence
  • social security number
  • receipt of the postal bill paid for the subscription
  • a document proving enrollment in a course of study (required only for non-EU students)

Benefits Included in Private Health Insurance

With this type of coverage, you are entitled to the following health benefits:

  • emergency hospital services for accidents or sudden illnesses
  • medical re-entry with no spending limit
  • medical consultation by telephone
  • dispatch a doctor to your home in Italy in case of emergency
  • access to a network of affiliated clinics
  • interpreter available in case of a claim
  • second medical opinion
  • referral to a medical specialist in Italy

Why People Are Increasingly Turning to Private Insurance

The main reason why the use of private health coverage has increased over the years tends to be based on the long waiting times in the public sector. Against this backdrop, both private citizens and businesses themselves are seeking supplementary solutions to the NHS.

In our country, private healthcare expenditures mainly concern orthopedic, cardiological, and oncological issues. If we think about it, these are all services that need quick and immediate intervention, which the waiting times of public facilities cannot guarantee.

In addition, an increase in the health care co-pay has been implemented in various regions of Italy.

The growth and development of many private facilities with capped costs have allowed them to become very competitive in the market. It is first and foremost in these cases that the advantage of private insurance takes over the services provided by public facilities.

The Right to Health

The right to health is based on the provision of health services guaranteed by the National Health System to each citizen on the territory of Italy, such as:

  • hospitalization – the citizen has the right to choose the facility in which to be hospitalized
  • primary health care – the National Health Service assigns a general practitioner
  • specialized care – the citizen has free access to examinations, visits, and tests
  • the choice between public or private facilities – citizens can decide for themselves whether to receive health care services in public or private facilities
  • surveillance, prevention, and control of infectious and parasitic diseases, including vaccinations
  • hospital care, which includes access to the emergency room, day hospital, day service, transfusion activities, and cell, organ, and tissue transplantation activities.

The Right to Health for Foreign Citizens

Foreign citizens present on the Italian territory are entitled to receive health care based on the following regulations:

If you are a foreign citizen legally residing in Italy and need information about health coverage, do not hesitate to contact Insurance Italy. This desk is dedicated to foreign nationals at the Generali Agency in Rome Parioli Liegi responds at