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Minister to unveil special panel’s recommendations for boosting public health system
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
06/24/2014
It remains unclear if Finance Minister Yair Lapid will agree to finance expensive reforms.
 
More than a year after Health Minister Yael German appointed – and decided to chair – a committee to find ways of strengthening the public health system, she will be unveiling its conclusions at a Jerusalem press conference on Wednesday.

The committee’s deliberations, which were constantly being leaked, will be made public. Some of the recommendations, such as transferring the ministry’s responsibility for running public general hospitals to a separate authority, have already been formally announced.

It is not clear, however, that Finance Minister Yair Lapid will agree to finance the expensive reforms that are necessary to bolster a public health system that has been weakening in the face of growing private medicine.

One of the major issues is whether to allow private medical services (Sharap) in the government- and Clalit Health Services-owned hospitals.

Such services – which allow patients to choose their senior surgeon or consultant, among other things – have turned into a means of jumping queues for medical treatment.

Allowing Sharap in these public hospitals would make them similar to Jerusalem’s major voluntary hospitals, Hadassah University Medical Center and Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where private medical services have been available for decades.

Leaks have hinted that German will recommend that some form of Sharap be allowed in the public hospitals outside Jerusalem, raising protests from some sectors even before the recommendations become public.

Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, who heads the Knesset Lobby for Health Equality, called on German to “halt Sharap so it will not bring about corruption. Public medicine has been eroded enough by private medical services.”

Meanwhile, Hadash MK Dov Henin tabled a bill on Tuesday to strengthen the public health system. Supporting the bill were MKs Orly Levy-Abecassis (Likud Beytenu), Gilon and Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), who hail from both the coalition and the opposition.

The bill calls to provide geriatric nursing care without requiring families to contribute; cancel financial participation for the elderly and the chronically ill; have an automatic annual 2-percent update of the basket of health services; allow patients to choose their doctors in the public system at no cost; enable demographic updating of the health budget; forbid the four public health funds to own for-profit companies; update the health cost-of-living index; bar Sharap in public hospitals; and expand free basic dental care for children up to the age of 18.

In exchange, to raise more funds for health services, there would be a 1% increase in health taxes (to a total of 6%), and a restoration of the employers’ “parallel tax” for healthcare – equal to 2% of employees’ wages – which was abolished nearly 20 years ago when Binyamin Netanyahu was finance minister.

Cooperating in preparing the bill were the Physicians for Human Rights, the Adva Center and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
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