Health Insurance for Students in Italy: the 2020 practical guide

Here is a summary of the options for health insurance for students in Italy.

  • Register with the Italian NHS, get a Tessera Sanitaria and rely on Public Healthcare as if you were an Italian.
  • Buy Welcome Association Italy (WAI) Insurance for Foreign Students (formerly known as INA-Assitalia), a low cost policy for major Emergency only. It works well if you only need it to obtain a visa or permit of stay.
  • Purchase private health insurance for students, through your school or on the open market. Travel insurance may also work.
  • Extend your family insurance plan to cover you while abroad.
  • Stay uninsured and pay out of pocket for any medical fees you incur in during your time in Italy (this is can be option only if you stay less than 90 days and come from a country that has visa-free entry).

Health Insurance for students in Italy: is it necessary?

All students abroad coming from a non-EU country staying more than 90 days need to have health insurance coverage for their full stay in Italy. If you are staying less than 90 days, you may or may not need a visa, depending on your country of origin.

If you do not need a visa, you are not required to have an insurance, but it’s advisable to get one for your peace of mind. Check this website to see if you need a visa to study in Italy (updated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

These Are Not The Droids You Are Looking by TheeErin, on Flickr

These Are Not The Droids You Are Looking” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by TheeErin


There are different options for student health insurance in Italy, each with its own set of pros and cons. You can choose your preferred option below.

Tessera sanitaria: Italian public health service for students

Public health insurance for students in Italy is available if you register with the Italian National Health Service (SSN – Servizio Sanitario Nazionale). 

You will have access to ALL services an Italian citizen has. In order to register, you need to have already a Stay Permit (Permesso di Soggiorno). This means that the Italian Health Insurance Card (Tessera Sanitaria) cannot be used to meet Visa requirements or to obtain a permit of stay upon arrival in Italy. 

You can add it to your existing policy for additional coverage or you can subscribe before renewal of your permit of stay. Registration is for one year and it can be renewed. You will get a Italian Health Insurance Card (Tessera Sanitaria) to show as proof of coverage with all public medical providers. 

  • Tessera Sanitaria gives you access to a broad network of public hospitals, outpatient clinics, labs, doctors and specialists of all sort. You can obtain most health services within the Italian National Health Service (SSN – Servizio Sanitario Nazionale).
  • The cost is affordable (a lump sum of about €149 a year with the student discount).
  • You will be able to choose a primary care physician – your medico di base – who will see you at no charge for medical consultations, prescriptions and referrals to specialists.
  • You will be able to buy some medicines (covered by the NHS) at lower or no cost.
  • In case of serious illness, accident or hospitalization you will be fully covered for admissions in public hospitals.
  • If you plan to travel in Europe, you will be covered also in other European Union countries.
  • It can only be used at public hospitals and clinics where staff and doctors are likely to speak only Italian, directions are often unclear and waiting time can be very long.
  • Except for the primary care physician, you cannot choose the doctor or the specialist who will see you in a public hospital or outpatient clinic so you have to be very lucky to end up seeing an English-speaking doctor.
  • To see a specialist, for lab analyses, imaging or procedures, you will always need to have a referral paper from your primary care physician (a red prescription called impegnativa or ricetta rossa).
  • Except for your Primary Care Physician and Emergency medical care, coverage works as a co-pay, so you will still need to pay part of the fee for most medical needs.
  • Registration is somewhat complex and requires interaction with Italian speaking staff at several public offices.
  • The cost is fixed for the year and coverage expires December 31, so if you apply in September, for example, you will only be able to use it four months while still paying a full year.

Welcome Association Italy (WAI) insurance for foreign students

This is a fairly cheap option that still allows you to apply for a Permit of Stay (Permesso di soggiorno) which is needed if studying in Italy. You can subscribe for 6 months or a full year.

  • Fairly cheap: €120 for one year €76 for six months
  • Easy to get: have to register as a member online at their website and pay the membership fee
  • It’s easy to use – Proof of insurance is given at the end of the registration process as a certificate electronically. Just keep your payment receipt with you at all times! This is the document to show when you want to use your WAI student insurance. It gives you free access to some services, you will not need to pay and claim.
  • Also valid to use in Schengen countries if travelling (policies differ a little from policies in Italy)
  • Have 3 free phone calls to doctors for a consultation over the phone
  • In case of emergencies or accidents that result in hospitalization you will be fully covered at public hospitals without limit of expenses
  • Depending on the situation, the insurance may be able to pay in full, if not then you will be reimbursed
  • It only covers Emergency assistance! This means you will only have free access to the Emergency Room (for accidents or life threatening conditions) or if admitted to a public hospital for a serious illness or urgent surgery.
  • Regular doctors appointments will only be set up if they feel like one is needed after having contacted the insurance company and gotten a consultation over the phone. These appointments will either be at public hospitals or other affiliated clinics where the doctors might not speak English
  • Regular doctors appointments will only be set up if they feel like one is needed after having contacted the insurance company and gotten a consultation over the phone. These appointments will either be at public hospitals or other affiliated clinics where the doctors might not speak English
  • It does not cover mental health and any psychological issues
  • It does not cover dental care
  • Need to contact the insurance before being able to do anything and they set up appointments

Private health insurance for students in Italy

Health insurance for students in Italy is often available at very reasonable fees, and it can end up being a good investment. Depending on the plan you subscribe, you may have even 100% coverage of all your medical bills, with access to private clinics and doctors of your choice.

plastic cards can be used for jellyfish stings
  • You can choose what you want to include in the policy to best suit your needs.
  • It allows you to access private clinics and doctors, and you can choose your preferred medical service.
  • You can select an English speaking doctor and medical service.
  • It can cover up to 100% of your medical bills.
  • You can pick a policy that covers you also in other countries, if you intend to travel around.
  • It’s easy to subscribe to – Most policies have online forms and payment for immediate activation.
  • It can be more expensive than the other options.
  • Some policies will require you to always pay out of pocket and then claim for refund.
  • If you do not know what to ask for when signing a policy you may end up with a plan that doesn’t cover what you need.  

How to understand if your student health insurance plan covers you​

To understand how to use your insurance, and to make the best choice, it is important that you know how it works, so you will know what to ask for. Don’t be scared by the jargon, it is really quite simple.

Here are the key terms you need to understand:

DEDUCTIBLE: this is the fee you need to pay before your insurance starts covering you. After your deductible is met (for year or type of service) the rest is covered.

e.g.If you have a €200 deductible, you will need to pay for a minor medical bill, but for fees exceeding €200 you will be covered. If your deductible is yearly, after you pay the first two bills of €100 all other bills will be covered.

COINSURANCE OR CO-PAY: this is a percentage or a flat fee you need to pay for every medical bill. It can vary depending on the type of expense (out-patient, in-patient, emergency).

e.g. If you have a 10% coinsurance and your bill is €150 you will pay €15 to the doctor and your insurance will cover the rest.

⚠️Deductible and co-pay can be combined!

E.g. Let’s say your policy has €50 deductible and 10% co-pay. If your bill is €150 you will pay €60 and the rest will be covered by your insurance.

VALIDITY: the initial and final date of coverage. This will be relevant for your stay permit (Permesso di Soggiorno).

OUT-PATIENT COVERAGE: it means you are covered for medical appointments also for non-emergency issues. Most insurances will cover illness or injury, as long as they occur while you are abroad.

EMERGENCY COVERAGE: it means you are covered for emergency medical issues, ambulance, ER, etc.

POLICY MAXIMUM: it’s the total amount your policy will cover. Above this maximum, any medical bills would be your responsibility.

⚠️ To obtain a stay permit (Permesso di Soggiorno) your policy needs to cover at least up to €30.000. Most policies will have a higher maximum.

PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS: most insurance policies do not cover pre-existing medical conditions, or only do so after a few months after you sign up.

⚠️ If you have a chronic medical condition, diabetes, or you are under ongoing treatment for a disease, or if you are subject to other long term medical issues likely to continue while you are abroad, make sure you choose a policy that covers you also for pre-existing conditions.

DIRECT BILLING: some policies allow providers to send them the bill directly, while others will ask you to pay out of pocket and then claim for refund. Some of the policies accepting direct billing will accept it only if you go to providers of their Network or their PPO (preferred providers). These are medical providers that have pre-agreed reduced fees with them and direct billing in place. Other policies will allow you to choose your preferred medical service and then will send a Guarantee Of Payment to the provider, confirming that they are willing to pay your bills directly. This option allows you to choose your provider freely, without having to pay upfront.

For more extensive information on Health Insurance for American Students, you can check this page as well.

How to get private health insurance as an international student in Italy

  • Get student insurance through your school: ask both to your school at home and the one hosting you for the Study Abroad program if they have preferential agreements and discounts with international insurance providers. Many American Universities and programs have agreements with CISI – Cultural Insurance Services International, which offers very good coverage at a reasonable fee and is extremely easy to use.
  • Find online the right plan for you: you can also rely on the free market, researching independently online for health insurance for students in Italy. This website, for example, allows you to compare insurance offers from different insurance providers. You can also contact directly a well known international insurance provider to ask for a student plan. If student insurance doesn’t suit you, you can also buy a travel insurance online.
  • Extend your family insurance plan: if you have a private insurance in your home country, you can check if it covers you also while you are in Italy. Ask your provider if you have coverage abroad and what are the conditions. This might be the most expensive option in many cases, so make sure to compare it to other viable insurance plans for students abroad.


Health insurance for EU students in Italy

Students coming from the European Union can use their National Health Insurance in Italy. This gives them access to all public healthcare options as if they were registered with the Italian National Health Service. They can show their EHIC card or a substitutive statement called Modello E106. European students do not need additional health insurance while staying in Italy. However, as the EHIC card will only cover medical assistance at public hospitals and clinics, you may still wish to purchase a private medical insurance which will allow you to see an English speaking doctor at a private clinic or as a house call.

Flip side of an Italian Health Card

Still got doubts?

DoctorsinItaly Team

This article was written, curated, and updated by the DoctorsinItaly team, as part of our efforts to share relevant and current information on health and wellness related topics, as well as on life as an expat or traveler in Italy.

Sarahi Ruiz - Contributor

We wish to thank Sarahi Ruiz from Regis University for her precious help in updating this blog post while studying abroad in Rome.