The Health Ministry has given formal permission to the four public health funds to raise their copayment rates by 4.4 percent following a similar rise of the medical cost-of-living index, according to a statement issued by the ministry Thursday.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel denounced the ministry for the increase in copayments. While the health funds are entitled to higher compensation for their services, ACRI said, state allocations for health continue to decline and are way below average rates of the OECD.

The government must cover the costs of higher copayments, ACRI said. Many low-income patients are unable to purchase medications and vital medical services and decide to forgo them, making them more ill, ACRI concluded.

The 1994 National Health Insurance Law has allowed automatic annual increases in the amount of out-of-pocket fees that health funds can charge members.

Revital Topper, the acting head of the ministry’s unit supervising the health funds, said that copayments can be updated every April without waiting until the new index is published in the summer.

Before the data on the new index is released, the insurers can use a reasonable estimate for how much the prices of medical services will rise. The insurers usually do not hike all types of copayments by the allowed rate, but choose to raise some but not others.

She added that while higher copayments are burdensome to the public, the increased rates also mean higher rebates from the health funds to patients, such as hearing aids.

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