There was wall-to-wall support on Tuesday for the bill to establish basic
geriatric nursing care by increasing health taxes by 0.5 percent, but the main
opponent – the Treasury – was not present at a conference in the Knesset that
The reform was initiated 16 years ago by Haim Oron, then an
MK of Meretz who retired last year as the party chairman, but he was present at
the discussion held by Ken Lazaken (Yes to the Elderly), a roof body of
supporters of the reform.
More recently, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov
Litzman strongly backed the legislation, which aims for implementation in three
years but faces strong opposition from the Finance Ministry. The ministry
apparently does not want to increase public expenditure or raise
The session, held in the Knesset House Committee room, was chaired
by Labor MK Isaac Herzog and Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz.
The bill, if
passed and implemented gradually, would come just in time to relieve the
unbearable costs to the middle and lower classes of caring for the sick and
disabled elderly, and reduce red tape that requires families to go to many
different authorities to seek aid. Instead, the Health Ministry and the public
health funds will take over responsibility for supervising and providing
geriatric nursing care in hospitals and the community. The major reform to
simplify bureaucracy and expand geriatric nursing care could head off a “tsunami
of elderly” (due to increasing longevity in the coming decades).
received wide support and praise from the dozens of people – representatives of
groups of pensioners as well as MKs from a variety of parties – for standing
behind the bill.
“I don’t agree with Litzman on many things,” said Hadash
MK Dov Henin. “But if we get this bill passed, it will have a lot of
significance. It is the right thing to do as a matter of human values. The
elderly have to be treated properly. There are many people who don’t get what
People have paid [their health fund or private insurance
companies] for many years, and when they need it, they get too
Only Yisrael Beytenu MK Faina Kirschenbaum, who left for another
meeting not long after the conference began, voiced her opposition to the bill
in its present form – while supporting unifying geriatric nursing care. She said
there were not enough geriatric hospital beds and that health taxes could rise
as much as 2% as a result.
“You have to prepare the infrastructure for
this. It is too early,” Kirschenbaum said.
All present agreed that the
aging of the population would put severe pressure on existing geriatric
institutions, and that the present way of funding this care – with adult
children, spouses and even sons- and daughters-inlaw having to pay thousands of
shekels a month to contribute to institutional costs – caused severe financial
burdens and family rifts.
Criticism of private insurance companies for
being eager to sign up young members for their geriatric nursing policies, but
doing all they could to find the “fine print” in policies to hold back benefits,
was voiced around the table.
Some participants argued that more must be
done to provide assistance to the elderly who want to remain at home – and thus
save the public purse money – instead of spending the rest of their lives in a
Litzman, who uncharacteristically raised his voice
and waved his arms on several occasions, promised that most people would pay
about NIS 30 a month for geriatric nursing and no one would have to spend more
than NIS 150 per month. “The Treasury threatens not to agree, but it won’t help.
The public wants this reform,” he said.
Labor MK Avishay Braverman said
he was worried about Treasury interference with the legislation, but “it is a
private bill. We have to support it.”
A few days ago, the US Supreme
Court decided to recognize the legality of the Obama administration’s
legislation to ensure health insurance for all. “Israel and its health system
were an example for the US. Our health insurance is much more advanced than
America’s. We know not to throw the poor to the dogs.
care has fallen between chairs. There must be a single authority in charge and
clear financing sources. Litzman, you can get it to pass in the Knesset,”
United Torah Judaism MK Uri Maklev said that some
reforms, such as that of water, “failed, but this will succeed because it all
stems from the value of helping the elderly. People worked all their lives but
don’t know how they will finish them. There is a large gap because what insurers
promise and what people get. They have no strength to fight the
Litzman concluded that he thought many MKs knew too few
details about the bill. He added that he would try to persuade the coalition to