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Clalit, Maccabi heads tell Knesset committee that Treasury is trying to keep health funds in chronic deficit
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
09/12/2013
Health Minister Yael German: "let’s sit and see how the budgeting transfer method can be changed.”
 
The deficits of the four public health funds – Clalit Health Services, Maccabi Health Services, Kupat Holim Meuhedet and Kupat Holim Leumit – are 10 times larger than they were just three years ago, according to Clalit Director-General Eli Depes.

He was speaking Monday before a session of the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee, called to discuss the red ink in the health insurers’ budgets.

The main reason for the NIS 1.6 billion total shortfall, he said, was the gap between the health cost index and the per-diem hospitalization rate that the insurers have to pay for each day its members lie in the wards as inpatients.

“People die because of this deficit,” said Depes. “We are told [by the Treasury]: ‘Be more efficient’ but the significance of this is to tell hospital doctors to leave their departments at 3:30 p.m. and to go do private medicine in their clinics because the public hospitals don’t have enough money to pay them more.

“The Finance Ministry locks the health funds into a stabilization agreement and forces them to buy medications. But nobody speaks to us. I don’t observe instructions by the Health Ministry director-general that are fine and good, because I don’t have the money to implement them.”

Maccabi Director-General Ran Sahar said that there is a “systematic and clear process by the state to erode [the resources] of the health funds. Let the Health Ministry tell us where to cut. In child development? In [treating] pregnant women? In autistic children? “Every three years, after constant erosion, the Finance Ministry makes a stabilization arrangement, gives us cash, and I have to sign an agreement that I won’t sue them again, and I will not bring appeals to the High Court of Justice, because I am drowning and need a bit of air. Give us additional money to fully cover demographic changes and the aging of the population.”

United Torah Judaism MK and former health minister Ya’acov Litzman said that “every few years, the Treasury forces the health funds to sign a recovery agreement so they will come and bow down to the officials. That’s the way it’s done. You can’t escape it.”

“Recently, the funds received NIS 1.1 billion as part of stabilization agreements, but NIS 900 million remained in the bank, and the Treasury says: ‘Next year, come to me again.’ This has to be stopped,” said Litzman.

Health Minister Yael German said: “Congratulations to the state for maintaining these expenditure arrangements. It may be that the method has to be changed. The health funds receive significant supports and additions to halt the erosion, but there is still a big hole that has to be filled. The health funds can become more efficient – even the Pentagon can save money – but let’s sit and see how the budgeting transfer method can be changed.”

Committee chairman Likud MK Haim Katz protested against the health funds’ inability to plan their budgets in advance because of the lack of clarity about the amount of money they will get. He called for another session in two weeks where he wants to hear the Treasury’s views. “I will struggle to find a solution,” Katz said.
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