The Italian government and Italian law provide for various obligatory state and employer insurance schemes and family allowances. Most Italians and EU residents and their families qualify to receive medical treatment under the Italian social security system. If you don't qualify, it's essential to take out private health insurance, which may be obligatory for some people. Even if you do qualify for social security benefits, you should bear in mind that these are fewer and less generous than in many other EU countries and in most cases you would be unwise to rely solely on state benefits to meet your needs.
You should ensure that your family has full health insurance during the interval between leaving your last country of residence and obtaining health insurance in Italy. One way is to take out a travel insurance policy. However, it's better to extend your present health insurance policy than to take out a new policy (most policies can be extended to provide international cover). This is particularly important if you have an existing health problem that won't be covered by a new policy.
Other compulsory insurance (assicurazione) includes third party car insurance, third party liability insurance for tenants and homeowners, and mortgage life insurance if you have a mortgage (depending on the amount borrowed). If you lease a car or buy one on credit, a lender will insist that you have comprehensive car insurance. Voluntary insurance includes supplementary pensions, disability, health, household, dental, travel, car breakdown and life insurance. However, insurance is generally more expensive in Italy than in many other European countries, policies also attracting various taxes and 20 per cent VAT, and the average Italian is more prone to taking risks than many other nationalities and carries less insurance than, for example, northern Europeans (although the market has grown considerably in the last decade, particularly in private health insurance and pensions).
It's unnecessary to spend half your income insuring yourself against every eventuality from the common cold to being sued for your last euro, but it's important to insure against any event that could precipitate a major financial disaster, such as a serious accident or your house being demolished by a storm. As with anything connected with finance, it's important to shop around when buying insurance. Just collecting a few brochures from insurance agents or making a few telephone calls could save you a lot of money. Regrettably, you cannot insure yourself against being uninsured or sue your insurance agent for giving you bad advice.
In all matters concerning insurance, you're responsible for ensuring that you and your family are legally insured in Italy. If you wish to make a claim, you may be required to report the incident to the police within 24 hours (in some cases this may be a legal requirement). If you're unsure of your rights, it's wise to obtain legal advice for anything other than a minor claim. Italian law is likely to differ from that in your home country or your previous country of residence, so never assume that it's the same.
This excerpt has been republished with permission from Survival Books. Some of the information may apply to EU citizens only. If you would like to get the inside track on moving to Italy, pick up your copy of this great book by clicking here.