Italians like to complain about the workings of their government and the quality of public services, and in many cases, there’s a lot to complain about … but not the health care.
I have been in love with Italian health care from day 1 in Italy, and I’ve always been one of its staunchest defenders. It works brilliantly, gives first-rate care, and costs next to nothing. An example.
Yesterday, as my tongue kept swelling up more and more and my words were starting to become unintelligible from something I’d eaten, I called my doctor. Personally. On his cell phone. He answered immediately and said, don’t wait through the night, go to the ER now.
So I went to the ER. They took one look at me, tossed me on a gurney, strapped me to monitoring equipment, and filled me up with one anti-histamine shot, two cortisone drips, and a half-liter of glucose solution. They kept me under watch for 2 hours, decided I was going to be fine, and let me go.
But more satisfying than the cost itself is the fact that economics never come into the discussion when you go to the hospital. You don’t need to fill out paperwork, prove that you have insurance, prove that you can pay, or whip out a credit card before you can leave.
Today I’ll be seeing my family doctor for a post-ER check-up. Cost: ZERO.
I’m also taking my daughter to the pediatrician for a lingering cough. Cost: ZERO.
Now I can already hear the cynics saying, well, it’s not really at zero cost, you have to pay taxes for that. Absolutely right. And we pay a lot of taxes in Italy, though nothing close to what the naysayers in the US would like you to believe. And other cynics will tell you that it’s a system that can’t go on, that global economics make it impossible for Italy to support such a system. Well, maybe so. But Italy has been a mid-level capitalist nation with major ups and downs since 1945, and yet through that entire period of time, they have guaranteed automatic and free primary and secondary health care to its entire population.
And guess what? If you are one of the lucky Americans who is coming to Italy this year, visiting this incomparable country, maybe even taking a tour with us here at Voyager, you too will have access to that 100% free emergency medical care if you happen to eat something you’re allergic to, slip and twist an ankle, or get a nasty sunburn from lying out on the beach too long.
And that Peace of Mind is worth Everything.