79 Year old visiting Italy. Aus - Italy Reciprocal Health Care agreement vs Travel Insurance


My father, an Australian passport holder, is planning to visit a relative in Italy for 6-8 weeks. Given that Australia and Italy have a Reciprocal Health Care agreement, is it worthwhile for him to pay for travel insurance which is about $900?

I understand that the travel insurance has other benefits such as recovering trip cancellation costs, lost baggage etc,any health-related event that might occur during his flights to/from Italy and repatriation.

My main concern is whether it is worthwhile for him to get travel insurance mainly for any medical situations that could happen during his stay in Italy. After reading T&C of travel insurances, I have found that their health coverage is lower than the public hospital system. For example, most travel insurances exclude any pre-existing conditions where as RHCA seem to cover them.

Does anyone have experience or know someone who has received medical care under the RHCA in Italy? Is it easy to receive?

The Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) we have with Italy:


  • +3

    Please just pay the $900 and have the peace of mind that you are covered without having to refer back to other agreements.

    Especially at 79 years of age.

  • I don’t know anything about this program, but a quick scan of the link says he’d get access to their public system. Is it adequate? Travel insurance should cover any provider. Public health may be rationed, the way it is here in Oz.

    • +1

      When I read about travel insurance, their health coverage is lower than the public hospital system. For example, most travel insurances exclude any pre-existing conditions where as RHCA seem to cover them

  • Always get travel insurance man. Unless you're rich enough to not care if stuff goes **** up.

    And in that case, you shouldn't care about the travel insurance either way.

    • +1

      This - repatriation following accident/illness is a killer, especially if it can't be done via a commercial flight (private jet, medical team) … start adding 00000's

  • Get Travel Insurance please…

  • +1

    I think the biggest difference is what @voteoften mentioned, which is that you'd be limited to the public system. You may well get good coverage in a public hospital through the RHCA, but:
    * will it always be the closest medical facility if you do need help?
    * will the hospital have the physical capacity to deal with the problem quickly?
    * will there be private options at a public hospital that you won't be able to access like we have in Australia (e.g. private rooms, choice of doctors, etc)?

    So having both to rely on just gives you that extra peace of mind, especially if you're in smaller towns and cities in Italy.

    My personal experience with using the RHCA was very positive - travelling companion had an ambulance ride, check ups/blood tests, day bed, etc under the agreement and paid nothing out of pocket, so in some ways the benefits seemed better than in Australia! But the condition was minor, we were close to a public hospital, and had travel insurance anyway.

    • Good to hear about your experience with RHCA

  • Does he hold a credit card? Possibly eligible for complimentary travel insurance (if so, probably a good idea to read the fine print vs what you've been quoted in case there's any significant differences).

    • He doesn't. I could not find a debit card that has free travel cover.

  • +1

    My experience is from pre-covid, things may have changed. The public system is likely to be fine, and in my experience it's quicker and easier to use your Medicare card (and maybe your Passport, I can't remember if I needed that too) than claim through travel insurance. However, travel insurance will probably cover repatriation, and if anything happens along the way such as injury or illness in transit you're covered for that as well. You can't just instantly teleport to Italy…

  • Reciprocal health agreement is not a replacement for travel insurance. Get travel insurance.

  • +2

    Having used reciprocal health care in Canada (which is no longer available) and the Netherlands - still get health insurance.

    For example, in Canada ambulance transport and prescription medication are/were not covered by Medicare but were covered by travel insurance. In the Netherlands everything was covered. So it varies by jurisdiction and you’d want to be certain of exactly what Italy covers, even with separate insurance.

  • At such age you better pray and do sensible things, no matter how much extra you pay for additional insurance always read the extra tiny lines. You'll find that most of those policies will cover for things like braking a leg or getting hit by a bus but something like a stroke or cardiac arrest won't be covered, even hip fracture will be a grey area. So make sure you compare between policies to get the best out of it.

  • Just use Zoom / Hangouts / Skype brah.

  • Id get the health insurance, but we went a lonnng time ago and had an emergency.

    Health insurance dragged their feet as she was in a italian hospital (In Genova that was really bad) and there was reciprical health care and luckily enough she got better — just as they finally agreed to take her after a week to a better hospital.

    Ie it largely wasnt worth the paper it was written on though we spent decent money on it.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience

      • Im not saying don't get it - I still would - but id look at reviews and what has happened when people try to use it.

  • +1

    It will be the equivalent cover a local Italian resident would receive. It could be better than the Australian healthcare system or worse. Maybe your father's family in Italy can advice?

    • They are not aware of how the reciprocal health care arrangement works. They are happy with the Italian health care system though

  • Not sure if it has been mentioned but this scheme does not cover body repatriation if you die. And, that is very expensive.

  • Thanks everyone for sharing your opinions and experiences. He has purchased a travel insurance

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