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Natl Health Service "Covers" US Tourists?

New York
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Natl Health Service "Covers" US Tourists?

In researching travel insurance for an upcoming trip, the insurance broker I spoke with told me that the Italian Health Service "covers" US tourists with emergency health issues. Can anyone advise me as to the accuracy of this statement, and also what it means in terms of services and fees? I'll still purchase travel insurance but I'd like to know something about how their health/medical system works (...and hope I don't have to test it). Thanks.

New York City, New...
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1. Re: Natl Health Service "Covers" US Tourists?

It doesn't cover you - I'm surprised the broker would not know that; they will treat you and bill you and then you can either submit that bill to your regular health insurance plan or your travel insurance - You can check in advance of your trip as to whether your health insurance coverage here in the states will reimburse you.

Italians pay high taxes to have that wonderful benefit of national health coverage, they can't afford to cover everyone who goes there and needs medical care - if that were the case, imagine the numbers of people going for free care.

I have had medical treatment in Italy- it is very inexpensive. I always buy travel insurance that has a hefty health coverage provision in case of something serious but, thankfully, so far I have not had to use it. My health insurance plan won't cover me for costs I incur there.

Saskatoon, Canada
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for Istria, Croatia
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2. Re: Natl Health Service "Covers" US Tourists?

As a Canadian I had emergency medical care in Italy once (broken knee) and was not charged anything at all. We were very surprised as we were prepared to pay. This was one of our first international trips, when we were young and foolish and did not even think about additional coverage.

GAC
Los Angeles, CA
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for Sardinia
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3. Re: Natl Health Service "Covers" US Tourists?

You may have three levels of coverage:

1. Your own health plan (check coverage details, call your carrier to confirm coverage details, limitations and documentation requirements)

2. Travel medical insurance which you can purchase prior to your trip (check coverage details, which are usually quite limited)

3. Italian National Health Plan: while you are NOT "covered" in financial terms , you will NOT be "turned down" if needing of emergency/urgent medical services (e.g. heart attack, stroke, appendicitis, broken leg or arm, auto accident, serious infection, kidney stone, etc.). You WILL be hospitalized if necessary, and given all required imaging tests (e.g. x-rays, ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, etc) , medical visits and surgical treatments. In most cases, you will not be required to show proof of coverage from your home country as a condition precedent to receiving medical care. You will then be BILLED for the services (although not necessarily ALL services). The BILL will usually be much less than a comparable bill from a public hospital in the United States.

Italy
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4. Re: Natl Health Service "Covers" US Tourists?

Many years ago medical care were free for everyone, nowadays it is different. Children and pregnant women health are taken in good care, but of you aren't an EU citizen you have to pay. Let me make some more researches.

New York City, New...
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5. Re: Natl Health Service "Covers" US Tourists?

I too had a lengthy hospital stay in Rome many many years ago as a teen and we were not billed regardless of often we asked and contacted them after the fact; it is different today. The bill I received for a much more recent incident was so minimal, I just paid and didn't bother submitting it to my travel insurance.

As I had said and GAC reiterated, you will be billed but, unlike here, you will not be asked for proof of any sort of coverage before you are treated.

Your broker could be sending off people with that incorrect information - perhaps he should take the time to become more informed before someone goes there and ends up having a serious incident that is costly and thinks they don't have to pay.

Italy
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6. Re: Natl Health Service "Covers" US Tourists?

Can't edit, but I found out exactly what GAC explained in his post. Only pregnant women and children get free medical help.

Our constitution says that we have the right to be healthy.

FF
Milan, Italy
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for Milan, Genoa, Valle d'Aosta
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7. Re: Natl Health Service "Covers" US Tourists?

In fact, also emergency treatment at hospitals' ERs may be free (or almost free); but any and all additional medical services will be billed. More sophisticated therapies or surgery (say at an ICU), when needed, may certainly be about as expensive as they are in the US. It's impossible to give even a ballpark figure, as the charge depends on the illness and the duration of the hospital stay, but it can be very, very pricey.

New York
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8. Re: Natl Health Service "Covers" US Tourists?

Thanks to all for your clarifications and points. I'm proceeding with my plans to purchase travel insurance!

New York City, New...
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9. Re: Natl Health Service "Covers" US Tourists?

Do alert your agent that he/she is giving poor advice. While some costs are very low, as noted by the poster above, costs for many services/procedures is high and he could be putting some of his/her clients in an unnecessary risky situation. They may choose not to buy the health insurance component of the travel insurance thinking they will be covered - they should know the truth before they decide.

A lot of people travel without this coverage - or any coverage - but this agent's clients are being badly misinformed.

I am glad you asked!!

Mestre, Italy
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10. Re: Natl Health Service "Covers" US Tourists?

ER service is free or very low cost.

Anyway, Italy requires a health insurance for every foreigner entering with visa. The visa won't be given without health insurance.