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Italy plans to charge non-EU residents €2K to keep using healthcare

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Italy plans to charge non-EU residents €2K to keep using healthcare
Many of Italy's international residents already pay annual charges to use Italy's public healthcare system, but the cost could be about to increase sharply. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Foreign nationals living in Italy got a nasty surprise on Monday as the government’s budget plan was revealed to contain a requirement for them to fork out €2,000 a year to use the public health service.

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Italy’s international residents will have to pay another €2,000 euros a year to use the public health service (servizio sanitario nazionale, or SSN) if they are citizens of a country outside of the European Union, according to a measure contained in the draft budget bill for 2024 approved by the cabinet on Monday.

"For foreign residents who are citizens of countries that are not members of the European Union, the possibility of registering on the lists of those entitled to benefits from the SSN is envisaged by paying a contribution of €2,000 per year,” read a statement published by the economy and finance ministry (MEF) on Monday.

The amount may be lower for people holding a student residence permit, or for those working as au pairs, it said.

The statement did not give any further details of who the charge would apply to and in what circumstances, leading to widespread concern and speculation.

READ ALSO: What we know about Italy's plan to charge non-EU residents €2,000 for healthcare

It did not make clear whether the requirement would apply to those who are currently exempt from paying to register with the Italian public healthcare system.

Using Italy's national health service already involves paying an annual registration fee for many foreign nationals resident in Italy, and it wasn't immediately clear whether the proposed charges would be additional.

The minimum annual fee currently is €387.34, with a discount for students and au pairs, rising to a maximum of €2,788.86.

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Asylum seekers and the unemployed have access to free healthcare, as do all Italian nationals. However the MEF statement did not mention exemptions for any category.

Several Italian news outlets including Sky TG24 and Ansa on Monday afternoon reported that the charge would apply to those who want to "continue" using the health service.

READ ALSO: Which foreign residents have to pay for healthcare in Italy?

The budget law is still at the draft stage and must be reviewed by the European Commission before being voted on by Italy’s lower and upper houses of parliament.

Commentators were quick to point out on Monday evening that the proposal may contradict the Italian constitution, which guarantees a 'right to health'.

"Article 32 of the constitution: 'the republic protects health as a fundamental right of the individual and interest of the community, and guarantees free care to the poor,'" wrote Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation health watchdog, in a post on the social media platform X.

"Why should non-EU citizens pay a contribution of 2,000 euros?"

Giordana Pallone of the Cgil trade union told the Adnkronos news agency: "We'll now have to wait to see how the law is written, because as it is reported today, it has no value or basis compared to the system and regulations that we have," she said, adding that it was "outside of the constitution and article 32."

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