Trip to Bentivoglio

Trip to Bentivoglio

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Unlike the other trips that I’ve written about this was not a pleasure excursion. So it is not only a description of the trip but includes some comments about the national health system, the SSN (Sistema Sanitario Nationale). As background, when I came here to live I needed to have health insurance, not only because it was the prudent thing to do, but also because I needed that to get the permesso di soggiorno. This seemed to be a bigger problem than I had thought. If I had been younger it would have been much simpler but I was already 72 when I arrived. Fortunately, at least at that time, I could join the national system without the permesso. This voluntary registration does not depend upon age. The system is free for citizens. Of course “free” is never really free, it’s paid for in one way or another through taxes, just not an explicit one like, say Medicare, in the U.S. Since I am not a citizen, my voluntary enrollment is dependent on my income for the prior year. There is a formula for calculating it which tops out at € 2,788.86 regardless of income and I believe that is on the order of a reported income of around € 55,000. In my case my reported income was my income from Social Security and I pay around € 1650 a year which comes to about $150 per month. Note that the prescription drugs generally cost less here than in the U.S. and most of the cost is covered by the SSN in any case. There are no copays when you see your primary physician and since I am over 70 there are also no copays for blood tests, x-rays or visits to specialists. So from the financial aspect it’s an incredibly good deal.

HOWEVER on the other side of the coin, I cannot make an appointment with my doctor. Some people can and when I eventually look for another one I hope to get one that does make appointments. Also my doctor has 3 different offices serving different neighborhoods so his hours are limited in mine. Still, I’ve gotten used to the inconvenience. Another thing that is a bit odd and, of course, inconvenient is that I pay for a year. The year for SSN is from January 1 to December 31. So the first time I enrolled I did so in September and therefore paid for an entire year although the coverage was for only the 4 remaining months. Another inconvenience (ah the Italian bureaucracy!) is that I cannot enroll ahead of time for the following year. As an example, this year (and last) I paid the cost in the middle of December to have it done with but I could not renew the enrollment until January 1. Of course no offices are open on January 1 so I will always have that day without insurance. It also means that to minimize risk I always need to be here in Bologna on January 2.

Now that that background is out of the way I can tell you about another inconvenience and why I took a trip to the Bentivoglio. I have an irritation in my left eye. I cannot wear my contact lenses because of it. I have tried using different kind of eye drops hoping that whatever was the matter with it would heal itself. After a month I saw my doctor and he said that I needed to see an ophthalmologist and wrote me a prescription. Here when you have a prescription for a blood test, x-ray or specialist you go somewhere to get an appointment. It could be a government office for such things (the CUP) or you can get the same service at many pharmacies. They have the same access to the computer system. So I went directly from the doctor’s office to the nearby pharmacy. This is in mid January and the first appointment in Bologna was in mid March! But there was one 2 days later in, you guessed it, Bentivoglio. I’m sure that you are not truly under the impression that all of the cities and towns in Italy are charming and I can assure you that they are not. Bentivoglio is a reasonably small (around 5,000 population) and extremely boring. It has a large hospital there which probably explains why I counted 3 mortuaries on the main (and practically the only) street in town.

Ah, but there is more. One can go to Bentivoglio by public transportation and since I don’t have a car that is generally my means of travel. So I could go to Bentivoglio and back by bus. While it is only about 20 km from door to the hospital door, it takes about an hour in total. See the map below.

Walk to the bus station for intercity buses, and then about an hour by bus. Return by the same route.

The trip to Bentivoglio had it’s good moments. After leaving the suburbs of Bologna the bus that I took went along a circuitous route through an industrial area. It was interesting so see since I rarely have the opportunity to see those parts of the country. There were large and small enterprises, food, packaging, mechanical stuff, software. Then after that it was miles and miles of nothing but farms. It was still pretty early in the morning with frost on everything and I saw a number of pheasants in the fields. Serious farming here in the Pianura Padana (equivalent of the central valley in California), big modern tractors and other equipment and lots of greenhouses – there are lots of radishes available in the market just now.

Still it’s not the distance or duration of the journey that is a problem. I found that you cannot go to and from this town without being there for 5 hours. The buses leave relatively early in the morning arriving there at about 8:15. The first bus returning to BO leaves at 1:15. So I made sure that I had a book to read during all of that dead time. If I am ever required to make the trip again I’ll also take a cushion to compensate for the hard chairs in the hospital waiting areas.

The doctor did seem to be very good and thorough as well as having a good sense of humor. I had a complete eye exam and really everything is in good shape other than some kind of irritation to the eyelid which had a specific name and also a specific medicine that I need to apply before going to bed each night until it clears up. He did say that I’m probably need to forgo contact lenses before too long – age has it’s limitations. I’m hoping to continue with them until I at least exhaust the supply of lenses that I have. I’ll also be on the lookout for nice eyeglass frames in markets for used stuff (there was one vendor at the Balon in Torino with a terrific selection).

I welcome any questions or comments (as always). Possibly personal age related health experiences. Growing old is not for sissies Or as Betty Davis put it:

5 Responses to “Trip to Bentivoglio”

  1. Joy O'Neal Says:

    My take on it is that Aging is an Olympic Sport, so we need to eat, exercise and maintain our brain synapses at an Olympic-ish level. It is quite a trick to do that at 76!

    I asked my favorite physician in Austin whether we tend to decline across time, or if there is usually an in incident that provokes a rapid decline. She said that in many cases —Given an otherwise healthy person — it is a fall that starts the decline.

    My goal for the year…..Stay upright!

  2. Joe Says:

    Great philosophy. I’m pretty much doing the same. I belong to a gym here and try to go at least 4 times a week. In the U.S. I always went at least 5 but my commute to Torino interferes with that. I’ve also read that falls do lead to a decline. As we age (73 for me) moving is extremely important. So you go, girl!


  3. Cynthia Salamy Says:

    Joe, although you found the health system messed up and the trip to Bentivoglio boring, I enjoyed the read. I’ve had cataract surgery in both eyes and still wear glasses…one for near (computer) and one for distance (driving). So if there’s something/someone in between those two, I can see perfectly. Ain’t that grand.
    Can’t offer much more truth re: aging other than Bette’s famous quote.
    Hope your eye clears up soon.

  4. Joe Says:

    Hi Cynthia, I can understand why you would find it boring but still, I wanted to write something about the health care system partly because the continuing debates in the U.S. about how to deal with our the ridiculously overpriced system there. I’m pretty sure that nobody from the U.S. that reads this has ever been exposed to a universal system. In any case I hope that you like the future ones more.


  5. Joe Says:

    Oh, wait, I read that wrong. You didn’t find it boring – my mistake.


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