Italian Bureaucracy and the Tessera Sanitaria

[Week 9] Why is this application only for a year, when we'll be researching for at least three?
[Week 9] Italian-only forms: supporting language acquisition since the beginning of red tape.
Thanks to the now-able-to-help LUISS and dear new friend Roberta, I finally managed to get that little form missing from my permesso di soggiorno kit and send the whole thing off. Now, for more bureaucracy: trying to apply for a tessera sanitaria.

The tessera sanitaria or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is used to get a doctor’s appointment, to buy medicines at the pharmacy, to book a lab test, to go to the hospital, or absolutely anything in relation to your health. This card, as you may assume, is rather important. As a diabetic, getting access to this card was of utmost importance— I had previously tried purchasing my medication at the pharmacy but without the tessera or an Italian doctor’s prescription they couldn’t sell me anything. So of course I needed to get my EHIC as soon as possible, and so I tried.

DAY 1: I was told by LUISS to go to the main Agenzia Sanitaria Locale (ASL) for my district but Adriana, my ESN buddy, told me that there was a much closer ASL to where I lived, and so we went to the office at Via Garigliano, 55. Once there we were told to go instead to Via Tripoli, 39, yet another ASL further than Via Garigliano but definitely closer than the head office. At this point everything was happening in very fast Italian, and I was very grateful to have a native with me!

However, there is little even a native Italian can do when faced with the hazards of bureaucracy. Long story short, the ASL people could not understand how a foreigner who was applying for a study-based permesso di soggiorno could be under an employment contract and paying taxes and thus be eligible for the associated employee health benefits such as the tessera. I understand the logic of LUISS to suggest we apply for a student permesso instead of a work-based one as no one has yet graduated from the GEM program and I’m assuming I’ll be extending for at least a few months as well. That said, I don’t think they foresaw the sheer amount of effort it would require of us just to get our basic social services recognized!

In any case, I was told to come back with a stamped document from the university stating that I am in fact a student and an employee and that I was paying taxes and eligible to apply for a tessera et cetera et cetera.

DAY 2: The office handling us GEM students in LUISS informed me that there was no such document and that they could not provide me with any other papers besides the ones I already had. I returned to the ASL with a set of Google Translate-generated phrases such as “the university does not issue such a document,” “would it be possible for me to call up a translator,” and “I am diabetic, I really need my insulin.” None worked, and I resigned myself to return to fight another day.

DAY 3: This time, Roberta of the same student-and-employee status came with me. She was able to explain to the ASL people what exactly being a PhD student entailed, and it all seemed good from there! I was allowed to choose a doctor, and was given the little sheet of paper that indicated I was under their care. Unfortunately, the internet was down within the ASL system and I was told to come back another day and they would immediately issue my tessera sanitaria. Robera translated for me and said that all I had to bring was my passport, and all the photocopies again, just in case.

DAY 4: Together with Miko, I returned to the ASL. We both faced the same internet problem last time and we were both told to just come back when the internet was working. We came and presented them with our passports and all the photocopies. The ASL man just looked at us and handed us a slip of paper, saying we had to go to L’Agenzia delle Entrate and update our details first. Why this was not communicated either to us or Italian-speaking Roberta last time, we have no idea.

DAY 5: L’Agenzia delle Entrate. We arrived early, got in line for the line for the numbers (oh, Italy), and I got assigned a grumpy lady who wanted me to go the questura first. Jasmin got his details updated just fine! (Racism? Sexism? Sheer luck of the draw?) I then got another number, got a much less unpleasant lady who registered my address and at that point it was the very first time that was officially registered as living in Rome.

DAY 6: Back at the ASL. Informed the people there of my recent change in address, and they printed out a temporary tessera and told me the real one would be arriving shortly. I would cheer but who has the energy for that.

I get the feeling there’s something I need to do at the questura. But that’s a headache for another day.


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