Italian healthcare wins, hands down, in my opinion.

And, on multiple fronts. I’ve been in Italy for almost eight years now, and as I look back across the Atlantic, especially during this pandemic, I’m especially grateful for the assurance of complete medical care without fear of losing everything I have in the wake of a catastrophic illness.

An important note:

This post is focused on the healthcare systems, not a comparison of the quality of doctors and caregivers in each country. Both Italy and the U.S. have brilliant medical minds and selfless doctors and nurses who give their all.

I’m here to offer a view from afar.

That is, as it pertains to the American healthcare system and how it stacks up against Italy’s. Why do I believe this topic is relevant and important, especially now? Because many American right-wing conservatives are using “socialism” as a catch-all fear-the-loss-of-all-your-rights threat. Such fear tactics ignore that socialism is not an all-or-nothing system. Those tactics ignore socialistic type programs like Italy’s healthcare system. But, go figure, there are some Americans who vilify socialism in a wholesale fashion, yet gladly come to Italy, take up residence, and eagerly sign up as beneficiaries of its “socialist” healthcare system. GRRRRRRR!!!

Let me start with a recent, harsh reality (for me, at least).

I cannot return to the U.S. to see friends or family ANY time in the foreseeable future.

Technically, I could, since I am a U.S. citizen. Realistically, I can’t because finding any type of travel medical insurance policy that covers COVID in the U.S. is next to impossible. PLUS, why the heck would I take the risk, even following rigid protocol, to be in a country where behaviors are all over the map. Even a five to ten percent risk of catching COVID and being sidelined in the U.S. and away from my Italian family is a risk just not worth taking. And for me, this exemplifies for me why Italian healthcare is far superior.

Healthcare is afforded as an equal right to all Italian residents (not just citizens).

I’m gladly onboard with aspects of socialism that focus on the common good of ALL people, and not just those people who have access of gold-standard insurance policies and consequently, the top-level medical care. (Remember, members of U.S. congress have comprehensive, gold-standard care for life.)

Here’s a great overview link of how the Italian healthcare system works.

“As stated in the Italian Constitution (Art. 32), the national government is responsible for granting that all residents, in every region of Italy, have access to this benefit package for all essential levels of care.”

I, like most Americans, had secure healthcare coverage while I was employed. Thankfully, I had a job that I loved.  But if, God-forbid, you lose your job or want to leave your job because you are so miserable, you start swimming in dangerous waters—not just of finding adequate coverage, but of potential financial ruin. I have friends who are late in their working years and have left their jobs and now paying exorbitant fees for basic coverage and ginormous deductibles. No wonder people run to jobs in the U.S., almost any job, just to sleep at night knowing they have coverage that will help keep them from the precipice of financial ruin.

Not just Italians, but most Europeans, are horrified and fearful of the American healthcare system.

I can’t tell you how many questions I’ve fielded from disbelieving Italians in regard to American healthcare. “How can a country not be set-up to protect the health of each and every citizen?” they ask. My answer? It’s simple. The Italian healthcare system is not built on a foundation of massive profit-taking from hospitals, insurance companies, and drug manufacturers.

That’s right, the Italian news isn’t littered with stories about Insurance company executives raking in yearly bonuses in the millions of dollars. Hospitals aren’t big money-making machines. Doctors aren’t paid huge salaries, yet they are some of the best trained and most giving in the world.

Italian healthcare services have consistently been rated as being among the best in the world.

“As far as healthcare is concerned, Italy ranks among the World Health Organization’s top 10 countries for quality health services.” – Read the full article here.

Yes, there IS the reality that regions of Italy aren’t so robust in their healthcare service. The northern regions as a whole kick butt on the services in the south, something a wannabe ex-pat might want to consider very carefully before making a decision where to land and live. And, for those who live on the yearly permesso di soggiorno, the ability to be part of Italy’s national healthcare plan comes with a fee. Some regions, like Veneto, charge a yearly fee of something in the neighborhood of 400 euro, while others charge on a sliding scale based on a person’s annual earned income. Still, such fees to participate are a fraction of what you’d pay in the U.S. And, pre-existing conditions aren’t part of the equation. Imagine that.

For non-urgent health matters in Italy that require more specialized care, you’ll most likely be put in a queue. You’ll have to wait longer than you’d like. BUT, you always have the option to go private and book a specialist independently to be seen more expeditiously. The cost? Usually around 150 euro. Not bad.

Markedly different attitudes availability of care.

I encourage you to read a blog post I wrote a few years ago about how my sister became ill when she came to visit. The short story is that she was seen quickly at a Rome hospital, and NOT charged anything by the staff. Would this EVER happen in the U.S.?

So, if you’re quick to enumerate the evils of socialism…

Consider the Italian healthcare system and how the country enshrines the right and affordability of healthcare to citizens and residents of every socioeconomic class.