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Health council okays 2013 health basket additions
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
12/27/2012
Deputy Health Minister Litzman calls for "lifesaving drugs to be restored" to supplementary insurance plans.
 
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who chairs the National Health Council that on Wednesday approved the recommended additions to the 2013 health basket, said the day before that he now wants “lifesaving drugs to be restored to supplementary health insurance policies” because the NIS 300 million allocated by the Treasury is not sufficient.

Speaking on Tuesday at an election debate held at the College of Management in Rishon Lezion with other parties’ representatives, Litzman (United Torah Judaism) said, “If there is anything that I should be penitent about, it is that [I allowed the] removal of lifesaving drugs from the supplementary health insurance policies of the public health funds. They must be restored.”

Under Litzman, the supplementary health insurance policies were allowed to pay for “second opinions” from senior private physicians and other services not included in the basket of services that the ministry requires the health funds to provide to all members of the public with relevant medical conditions.

The ministry spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday that Litzman made this statement in the debate, and added that the reference to being penitent “was said as irony.”

However, Litzman seems to have showed in his statement a misunderstanding of his critics’ positions.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev health economist Prof. Gabi Bin-Nun commented that “every lifesaving drug is already in the basic basket” provided by the health funds to all citizens.

Bin-Nun, a former longtime deputy director-general of the Health Ministry who was in charge of health economics, said that the supposed use of the health funds’ supplementary health insurance and those of private health insurance – as if they include lifesaving drugs in their policies – misleads the public.

In general, Bin-Nun told The Jerusalem Post, private expenditure by Israeli households on supplementary and private health insurance should be minimized, as in Israel, “this rate is among the highest in the world. The way to do this is surely not to include lifesaving drugs in the health funds’ supplementary health insurance policies.”

The Health Council, representing senior Health and Finance ministries’ officials, representatives of the health funds, patients’ groups, doctors and other medical profession bodies, has long been regarded as a rubber stamp body set up in 1995 by the National Health Insurance Law. Without its approval, the recommended additions to the basket cannot be sent for final approval by the government.

The members present all raised their hands approving the list of 88 medical technologies to be added in 2013 at a cost of NIS 300m., but all called on the Treasury to double that figure and that the basket of technologies should be increased automatically by 2 percent every year.

But the Treasury has rejected this idea every year, preferring to decide on its own how much to budget. The cabinet is due to approve the list on Sunday, and the list has already been posted (in Hebrew) on the Health Ministry’s website at www.health.gov.il.

All the council members praised the work of the basket committee, chaired for the first time by Shaare Zedek Medical Center director-general Prof.

Jonathan Halevy, who was appointed earlier this year to serve for two years. Halevy spent more than an hour explaining to the members how decisions were painstakingly made by consensus at the end of 10 weeks of intensive deliberations.

Some 680 medical technology candidates were sifted through by the ministry’s technology administration. Then the committee set priorities for choosing NIS 300m. worth among the NIS 2 billion worth of candidates and finalized its recommendations.

The NIS 300m. annual allocation was set in 2010 by the Treasury, which must soon decide how much it will allocate for the 2014 basket and whether it will be a multi-year allocation. The Health Council members all called for the allocation again to be granted for at least three years to enable better planning.
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