Six thousand Israelis lost their health fund-based geriatric nursing insurance in 2010 because they switched health insurers that year without anyone telling them that they forfeited their coverage, Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman said on Monday.
Litzman was speaking at a heated session of the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee chaired by MK Haim Katz (Likud) that focused on discussing geriatric nursing care, either as supplementary health insurance from their health funds or group policies.
Katz convened the committee following reports that the Finance Ministry’s official in charge of the capital market and insurance, Prof. Oded Sarig, decided to cancel geriatric nursing policies beyond those provided by the public health funds. The MK said it was unthinkable that the Treasury official would have “the unlimited power, at the drop of a hat, to do whatever he pleases. It is too dramatic an issue to be dealt with in a ministry document. You must present the proposal to our committee in an orderly fashion and not decide in the dark of the night,” Katz warned.
“This involves the savings of millions of insured. It may be kosher, but it stinks so much that one can’t stand near it.”
The discussion was initiated by former welfare and social services minister Isaac Herzog (Labor), who said that “hundreds of thousands of citizens woke up one morning and learned that their insurance policies were canceled and that they were at risk of being helpless when they got old. It seems that there is a new contract that no one among us is an expert in its fine print. It is unconscionable that we and the pensioners will be disregarded,” Herzog raged.
Lee Dagan, the deputy in charge of the capital market and insurance in the Finance Ministry, responded by saying that most of the change means that from now on, there will be no short-term geriatric nursing policies but only those that are in effect for the whole lifetime. A person will know in advance what policy he begins and whether he can afford the payments, he said.
Dagan added that his office was working “on finding a solution for the elderly with coverage who will find it difficult to move to individual policies, which will be joined from now on mostly when one is young.”
MK Orly Levy-Abecassis of Yisrael Beitenu protested: “Why did you rush to issue the order before you found an alternate solution?” Katz demanded that healthfund members who move from one to another be required to sign a document stating that they know they have thereby lost their rights to their nursing insurance. He added that he may demand a change in the authority of the Treasury official.
National expenditures for geriatric nursing insurance in 2010 totaled NIS 9.7 billion, with 42 percent privately and the rest publicly funded.