Getting Medical Treatment: The Private Health Care System in Rome

Updated: Aug 4


The scene is this: you’ve just moved to Rome with your family and are starting a new adventure. You’re wide-eyed and excited. Things are still settling down, but you’re eager to learn more about the eternal city and cozy up to your new home. Things are going well, you’re making new friends and getting to know your international colleagues. All of a sudden, you have a stomach ache.


You could go to the public hospital, but will you be seen right away? What if they don’t speak English? These doubts, amongst others, may cause you to consider going to a private medical center.


How the Private Healthcare System in Rome Works

If you decide you would like to visit a private medical center, there are a few things to keep in mind when booking an appointment. This could be anything from proximity to your home or work, services offered by the medical center or insurance agreements to the bedside manner and attitude of each doctor and staff member. Once these aspects are clear, contact the medical center by phone or email to set up an appointment. They will coordinate a time that works for both you and the doctor.


I have private health insurance, do I need to pay?

If you have a private health insurance policy, the best thing to do is let the clinic know when you book your appointment. Give them the name of your company and send a copy of your insurance card so they can verify whether they can accept your insurance and set up direct billing. If they don’t accept your insurance, make sure they can provide you with the necessary documents to file a reimbursement claim on your own. If they do accept your insurance, there are several benefits you can look forward to!


1. Different Degrees of Coverage

Depending on your health and any preexisting conditions you may have, health insurance can offer you the flexibility to purchase as much or as little coverage as you need. If you’re someone who is in great physical condition and generally has very few health concerns, you can decide on a plan with less coverage and a lower price point. If you or your family have health demands that require you to see a medical professional often, you can find plans that include full coverage or low deductibles or co-pays.


Beside the level of coverage, some plans may include vision and dental visits as well! This means you can have peace of mind knowing that you and your family will be taken care of in all cases.


2. Potential Cost Savings

Having a private insurance policy means that you may not have to cover much or any of the costs as a cashpayer. Depending on how often you need to visit the doctor, this could save you hundreds to thousands of dollars. This is especially useful when it comes to specialist visits and surgeries.


3. Cashless Appointments

What’s better than leaving without needing to pay? Nothing! If you have a private healthcare policy, your plan may cover part of or the full cost of your appointments with a direct billing agreement. This means you may have the convenience of not needing to pull out your wallet when you arrive at the healthcare facility: all you’ll need to do is check-in and then get your medical report following the visit!


I have the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), do I need to pay?

If you are an EU resident, you probably have the European health insurance card (EHIC) that allows you to get the equivalent medical care as your home country. Although this card entitles you to quality care, it is only accepted in public health structure and possibly in some private centers. This means, however, that you are not guaranteed quick or English-speaking care.


Why Should You Choose Private Healthcare?

Maybe you’re wondering why one would consider using a private medical center in Italy when great care is accessible through the national health system (SSN). By now you’re probably quite familiar with the SSN, but there are several reasons why you might want to go private.


Choice of Provider

Private health care can provide you many benefits, and one of the most important ones is the freedom to choose your care provider and facility. You can find the care that suits you the most and, in Rome, FirstMed is likely to have the specialist that you need in English. Your visits, analyses, and prescriptions can all be explained to and recorded for you in a clear way. Our doctors care about your concerns and making sure you can maintain or improve your health.


You also get to decide which doctor you feel most comfortable with. Whether you get a bad feeling from a medical provider, you want to seek a second opinion, or you want to find a place closer to home, using a private clinic allows you to consider your options to get the best and most accurate possible treatment.


Language Barrier

We know, this is probably one of the things that makes you the most anxious. How are you going to make it clear to the doctor what your symptoms are?


If your Italian could use some work, it’s going to be difficult to explain your problem to the doctor and feel certain that she has really understood you. Even if you are eventually able to communicate, you want the security of being able to understand the doctor’s evaluation and advice clearly. If you have the option to choose where you get your medical care, you can make sure that you choose a place that can best accommodate you in English.


Long Wait Times

As the healthcare system in Italy is free to residents, the wait lists and times for non-urgent care tend to be quite long. As many family practitioners (medico di base) have hundreds of patients, when you show up, you could wait for hours before you’re accommodated. Just because you schedule an appointment, this does not necessarily mean you will be seen at the scheduled time. This can cost you time and may mean you have to come back another day.


When it comes to specialist visits, you have a limited choice in which specialist to see. Once your primary care doctor gives you a recommendation, it can take months to get an appointment. At that point, valuable diagnoses and treatments may be delayed. This is another reason why private healthcare can be beneficial for foreign residents of Rome.

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