The buzzer at our gate announces that we either have a visitor or a package waiting. We buzz the gate open and we hear approaching footsteps. An older gentleman looking a bit like an Italian version of Bernie Sanders approaches and discloses that he is a Medico Fiscale, otherwise known here as the Sick Leave Policeman.
My wife has had a week of bad migraines, she has been to the local hospital, seen by two doctors and one neurologist and tomorrow she is scheduled for a MRI to see if they can determine what is the problem. The owner of the factory, where she works as the IT person, has sent the sick leave police to check on her. It is not enough for her boss to see the paperwork from the hospital and doctors. It is not enough that her doctor has written and submitted the paperwork allowing her to take some sick leave.
The Italian health care system strives to keep people from abusing sick leave. They make a good attempt at protecting their excellent health coverage and not allowing it to be abused. The man that showed up today is a medical doctor, not some pencil pusher from the government. Therefore, sick people will, in fact, be recognized for being really sick, while workers who are not sick will be exposed. What we found humorous is that after the surprise visit with my wife, he ended up telling her that she should take more days off and he would write a document to allow this.
The Italian health system makes sure that every citizen has the right to be well and whatever that person needs, medically, will be utilized. Poor or rich, each person has an equal chance to get well whether it is the flu or a more serious hospitalization. Tests made to help the doctors determine the cause of illnesses are covered. My wife’s MRI tomorrow will be $40.00 (US conversion). Every person in Italy, rich or poor, has the right to be healthy. They do pay more taxes, but they pay no health insurance premiums. A long stay in the hospital with an operation would cost zero. Nothing. No one here loses their home due to hospital bills. No one borrows money to pay later. No one receives a bill to pay the deductable cost.
People want to know the difference between living in Italy and living in America. This is one of those big differences.