Prime Minister (and, formal) Health Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman.
(photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH)
Whether the budgets of the four public health funds have grown or shrunken was the subject of debate in a rowdy session of the Knesset State Control Committee on Wednesday.
Committee chairwoman Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) charged that the insurers’ financial situation will get worse. The next state budget does not take into consideration the aging of the population (but only its growth) and the resultant higher per-diem hospitalization cost, she said, and does not include money to shorten waiting times for medical procedures.
Health Ministry officials told the committee that the allocations had grown, while the health funds said they were smaller.
Liora Shimoni, a representative of the State Comptroller’s Office, said the health funds have difficulty functioning in an atmosphere of financial uncertainty. “They must be able to plan in the long term for this to change,” she said. Their deficits are growing annually, she added.
MK Yael German (Yesh Atid), a former health minister, said the health funds have no incentive to deal with patients more cheaply and no less effectively in the community. She said it would be better for the state to fund hospitals directly for their fixed and variable expenses.
Ran Ridnick, who is responsible for health in the Treasury’s budgets branch, maintained that the Finance Ministry had undergone a “real change in priorities” in its funding for health, having taken into consideration population growth and longer life expectancy – thus denying the validity of Elharar’s argument.
Ran Plotnick, a Health Ministry economist, said the Treasury has “expanded the health budget generously so that some of the heath funds will finish the year at least without a deficit if not in the black.”
The insurers received NIS 175 million more this year and next year will get NIS 215m. beyond their expenses.
But Eli Cohen, the deputy director- general for finance of Clalit Health Services, disputed this, saying the Treasury ignores the rising cost of per-diem hospitalizations and that the High Court of Justice has already ruled that the health funds’ budgets have been eroded.
Maccabi Health Services’ Ido Hadar said that in the coming year, the state budget for health will be NIS 600m. less than in 2016.
MK Dov Henin (Joint List), the chairman of the Knesset’s Health Lobby, said the health system was a “miracle because it’s in an extreme lack of funds, but it still manages to produce good results. There are those who think it can continue doing so, but the laws of nature show that if you keep feeding the horse less and less, it will eventually starve and die. Starving the health funds of state money is a fact.”