Writing about moving to Italy during COVID-19 and my personal experience and resulting reflections on American Healthcare vs Italian Healthcare means getting… a few questions and comments. Some of which, do little to make me think. Like the rather scathing facebook comment from a man I’ll call “Angry Tim.”
After my Sister (one of my biggest supporters and cheerleaders – love you Sis!) shared my post titled Why We Moved to Italy | Healthcare Costs on Facebook, Angry Tim commented:
Woof right. Pretty angry there Tim. Pretty offensive too. I found it hard to see past the insults to ask any questions or try and learn anything from what Tim might actually know. This comment did little to make me think other than Tim’s a rather angry fellow. On the flip side, other comments and questions have made me stop and think. Like this one.
Now this is a good observation and question! Part of which was answered in a separate post where I shared my own first hand experience with the Italian healthcare system.
Still, a few days later now USFMAN’s question stuck with me. How has COVID-19 impacted the Italian Healthcare system? Can a national healthcare system like Italy’s hold up under the extreme pressures of the coronavirus pandemic? Will the government have to pass the costs on to Italian citizens?
As an American Expat now living in Italy, you can bet I’d love to know the answer to these questions myself. Good questions make you think and when I think I research. This is what I found.
How the Italian National Healthcare Service Adjusted to COVID-19
During COVID-19 the Italian government introduced a number of measures specifically impacting the healthcare sector. Below are a few examples of the measures along with examples of what I believe to be related impacts.
- €50 million was allocated for investment in projects aimed at expanding or reconverting business activities for the production and supply of medical devices and personal protective equipment. Which explains why brands like Armani, Gucci, H&M and Prada all set aside fashion during COVID to focus on Italy’s Health Crisis.
- Manufacturers and importers were allowed to place surgical masks and PPE on the Italian marketing through fast-track authorization. Plus, an additional decree suspended customs duties and VAT taxes on medical supplies. Which might explain why the Italian government announced protective masks would be sold for €0.50 avoiding price gauging.
- Limited only to the period of the state of emergency, a new decree allowed for the collection and processing of health data of patients suffering from COVID-19 to improve the coordination and analysis of scientific data from any and all studies. Which might explain how a potential COVID outbreak in Veneto in early July was averted.
- Italian leadership also modeled and mandated consistent nation wide mask wearing protocol. As a result of lockdowns, expansive testing and mask protocols as of July 27, 2020 there are less than 200 new cases of COVID-19 in Italy.
From personal experience I believe it’s too early for the average Italian citizen like myself to know how COVID-19 will impact the Italian healthcare system in the future. Last month the Italian healthcare system returned to treating non COVID-19 related health issues. I know this first hand after having experienced my first Italian hospital visit after COVID-19 a few weeks ago.
How Italy’s Elderly Are Faring With COVID-19
To answer the other part of USFMAN’s question “How well are the aged faring now?” I have to look beyond my personal experience. I’m not yet prepared to call myself aged at 44. Instead, I look to Papà who recently turned 81. He might fall into the aged category but Papà is an inspiring example of what good healthcare and determination can do.
Papà has been monitoring and warding off the spread of cancer since 2006. Although his tales of hospital visits in April were full of COVID-19 protocols, he continued to receive testing and treatment as needed, in the hospital and with home visits.
It should be noted that we are in the Piedmont region which was the second hardest hit region of Italy behind Lombardy. Answers from Italians living in Lombardy, Italy’s hardest hit region, may vary drastically from mine and Papà’s experience. I can however only speak from my own families experiences and the signs of hope I see on the horizon.
Italy Coronavirus News
Roberto Speranza Italy’s Health Minister was recently quoted as saying “We are out of the storm.” adding “even if not yet in a safe port. I think we need to tell the truth, these have been the most difficult months in the history of the country since the Second World War.”
Last week the EU reached an agreement on an $859 Billion dollar recovery package of which Italy will receive $240 Billion dollars. As a new Italian citizen, what gives me hope that the Italian healthcare system will persevere after COVID is this.
Italy is a country with a deep tradition of respecting and protecting its elders. If anything, COVID brought Italians together in the fight to protect the citizens, especially the elderly against a global pandemic. Masks were never politicized in Italy. Italians wore masks and still do.
While it is true that Italy was initially too slow to react to COVID, it is equally true that when it did react, the reaction was collective and effective. In my own experience as of today, Italian healthcare system remains affordable and world class in preventative healthcare. If I see changes in the cost or quality in the coming year, you can be sure I’ll share them here.
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USFMAN is a fellow Ohioan, self- professed “nerdy introvert” and baseball fan who has recently wrapped up an American cross-country trip from Florida to California. You can read about his journey on Snippets of a Traveling Mind. My thanks to USFMAN for asking sit-up-and-pay-attention question.