Italian Health Care, part II


Because my last entry seemed so unbelievable to the American public, I thought I would follow it up with another little tidbit about health care in Italy.

Though not of any relevance to those traveling in Italy, nevertheless, the way in which Italy deals with pre-existing medical conditions may still be interesting.

I remember as long ago as 1992 that my high cholesterol, caused by nothing other than the fact that my body produces a ton of it, was considered a condition that left me liable for all related medical costs in the US.  Because it was something that came before my medical insurance had been issued, it called for higher prices and more complicated paperwork.  (I admit that I am not totally up to snuff on the current insurance situation in the US, but I have reason to believe that it has not changed substantially.)

In Italy, on the other hand, having a pre-existing condition is like laying the golden egg.  Because my cholesterol is naturally high, I become automatically exempt from payment on all related treatments.  Let me explain: if a blood test for your cholesterol levels and triglycerides costs somewhere around 11 euros here, I pay nothing, because it is a pre-existing condition.  If I need to get a cardiac ultrasound, done purely for preventative measures, I pay nothing, compared to the usual 18 euros.  When I get a carotid artery color-doppler ultrasound (again, for reasons only of prevention), I pay nothing, compared to the usual 18 euros.

Now you may already be laughing about the ridiculously low cost of 18 euros for a specialist machine examination, but then consider the beauty of the fact that because I need it more than the average person, I don’t have to pay anything for it.  And even though I am certainly a legal resident of Italy, I still am not even a citizen.

And don’t think that because it’s free, it’s of cheap quality too.  I have always been seen by qualified doctors using the newest equipment, usually waiting between 4 and 8 weeks to get it done.  Occasionally it takes longer, it is true, but then after all, this is not an emergency exam, and so I can wait.  If it were urgent, it would get done within a week, 2 tops.

La dolce vita means that life is sweet for many things.  Not having to feel guilty or penalized for a pre-existing medical condition is one of the sweetest.