Skip to main content

Decades of Tight Fiscal Policy Have Left the Health Care System in Italy Ill-Prepared to Fight the COVID-19 Outbreak


Although austerity was particularly strong in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2008 and its consequences in the euro area, Italian fiscal policies have been characterised by tough consolidation periods ever since the 1990s.


  1. Begley, S. (2020, 8 April), With ventilators running out, doctors say the machines are overused for Covid-19, STAT, (14 April 2020).

  2. De Belvis, A. G., F. Ferrè, M. L. Specchia, L. Valerio, G. Fattore and W. Ricciardi (2012), The financial crisis in Italy: Implications for the healthcare sector, Health policy, 106, 10–16.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Gattinoni, L., S. Coppola, M. Cressoni, M. Busana and D. Chiumello (2020), Covid-19 Does Not Lead to a “Typical” Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, advance online publication.

  4. European Commission (2019), Country Report Italy 2019: Including an In-Depth Review on the prevention and correction of macroeconomic imbalances, SWD(2019) 1011 final.

  5. European Hospital and Healthcare Federation (2018), Hospital in Europe, Health care data 2018.

  6. McKee, M. (2004), Reducing hospital beds: What are the lessons to be learned?, European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies Policy brief, 6.

  7. OECD (2020), Beyond Containment: Health systems responses to COVID-19 in the OECD, (2 April 2020).

  8. Pavolini E. and G. Vicarelli (2013), Italy: A Strange NHS with Its Paradoxes, in: E. Pavolini and A. M. Guillén (eds.), Health Care Systems in Europe under Austerity, Work and Welfare in Europe, Palgrave Macmillan.

  9. Popic, T. (2020), European health systems and COVID-19: Some early lessons, EUROPP blog, (29 March 2020).

  10. Rhodes, A., P. Ferdinande, H. Flatten, B. Guidet, P. G. Metniz and R. P. Moreno (2012), The variability of critical care bed numbers in Europe, Intensive Care Medicine, 38, 1647–1653.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


Open Access funding provided by ZBW — Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.

Author information



Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Franz J. Prante, Alessandro Bramucci or Achim Truger.

Additional information

Franz Prante, Berlin School of Economics and Law (HWR); and University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.

Alessandro Bramucci, Berlin School of Economics and Law (HWR), Germany.

Achim Truger, University of Duisburg-Essen; and German Council of Economic Experts, Wiesbaden, Germany.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made.

The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.

To view a copy of this licence, visit

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Prante, F.J., Bramucci, A. & Truger, A. Decades of Tight Fiscal Policy Have Left the Health Care System in Italy Ill-Prepared to Fight the COVID-19 Outbreak. Intereconomics 55, 147–152 (2020).

Download citation