The heads of the Israel Medical Association, national medical societies and patients’ rights organizations, along with leading medical economists, sent a letter on Sunday to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, protesting against planned cuts in health budgets.

“We... express our shock at the intention to make an additional reduction in the health budget and call on you in a clear demand not [to do it]! Not this year and not next year. According to a careful calculation by experts in health economics, there is a deficit of NIS 9 billion in public expenditures for health. These funds are needed not to provide the citizens with a luxurious health system, but to supply citizens with the basic medical care set down by law,” they wrote to Netanyahu, who formally serves as health minister.

Copies were sent to Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu and heads of doctors’ unions.

Litzman and his officials did not initiate any public protest against the cuts, and the ministry had no comment when asked for one on Sunday.

The two-dozen petitioners noted that 40 percent of health expenditures in Israel are privately funded – the highest figure among the numerous countries that provide their residents with national health insurance.

“This points out the growing gaps in the lack of equity in providing health care here and the growth in inefficiency in the system,” they wrote. “The Supreme Court recently stated that the state has failed in its role by not taking action to properly update the basket of health services. By doing so, it harmed the health funds’ ability to provide the health services they are bound to supply by law.”

The health system leaders added that as people who are in the corridors of health fund facilities and public hospitals on a daily basis, they regularly “see the faces of honest citizens and taxpayers, who in their most difficult hours encounter an eroded and tired system and medical teams whose strength has waned. We feel the pain of the patients who have to wait for hours, days and months for vital medial treatment and feel the frustration of doctors, nurses and other medical teams who can not give them the medical treatment they were meant to provide,” they complained.

They went on to “remind” the prime minister that cutting the health budget “harms the readiness of the population for emergencies, is a declaration of war on the middle class and hurts the weak leaks of Israeli society.”

Meanwhile, the pensioners’ union in the Histadrut labor federation demanded that the government cancel value-added tax on medications and other basic products, and called on Netanyahu not to increase VAT by 1 percentage point, as planned. Union chairman Gideon Ben-Israel said the higher costs would harm the functioning of the elderly, a quarter of whom are defined as poor, with three-quarters of them in the three lowest deciles of income.

The elderly take medications at 11 times and visit doctors at eight times the average rate of the general population, Ben- Israel said.

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