The chapter describes the recent evolution of the Italian National Health Service (NHS), highlighting the potential and effective consequences of the economic and financial crisis on social and territorial inequalities, especially in terms of service access and quality. First, it analyses the cost-containment and austerity policies in the NHS, which brought to a relevant underfunding of the public healthcare system, comparing public expenditure trends in Italy with those of other Western European countries. Then, it stresses the increasing role played by private expenditure, emphasizing the risks in terms of health inequalities connected to the high level of out-of-pocket payments and to the spread of the occupational funds. Finally, a reconstruction and analysis of the current changes in the NHS governance is carried out, explaining in details how the reassertion of the role of the Central State in health policy entails different consequences for different areas of Italy, widening the territorial inequalities and increasing the North-South divide. So far, these changes have taken place without any structural reform, in an imperceptible but progressive way, which does not help to develop an appropriate and necessary debate on the future of the healthcare system.
Part of the book: Universal Health Coverage