Israel spends little on healthcare compared to other OECD nations

Israelis have more babies, live longer than average.

July 4, 2016 01:05
3 minute read.
Ichilov hospital and Sourasky Medical Centre in Tel Aviv.

Ichilov hospital and Sourasky Medical Centre in Tel Aviv.. (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/GELLERJ)


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Israeli expenditure on health is among the lowest in the developed world, making its medical system very efficient, but out-of-pocket private expenditure of its residents is among the highest of the 34 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development countries, showing relatively low state support of the system.

This emerged from the just-released OECD statistical comparisons of the health systems of its member states for 2014. The Israeli data were provided by the Health Ministry in Jerusalem and compiled by its staffers Nir Kedaar and Rani Plotnick. Some 40 health indicators were compared in the report.

OECD member states spent an average of 9 percent of GDP on, while in Israel the figure was 7.6%, up a bit from the previous year. Private expenditures averaged 27% of healthcare costs, compared to a whopping 38% in Israel, the seventh highest proportion in the list.

While Israel’s population is among the youngest of the OECD countries, and only 11.1% of residents are aged 65 or above, compared to 16.6% in the OECD as a whole, the population is aging rapidly, with the 65+ expected to comprise 16.6% of Israelis in 2050.

The ratio of general hospital beds to the population is low, fourth from the bottom of the list, with only 2.3 beds per 1,000 residents compared to the OECD average of 3.6 beds.

In 2014, the OECD changed its definitions and included psychiatric hospital beds in the “general hospital” category, thus affecting the data on average hospital stays and occupancy rates.

The low rate of hospital beds here is also expressed in the average hospitalization period of 5.1 days, compared to the OECD average of 6.5. A lower rate shows efficiency, but it also can indicate premature release of patients due to lack of space and ensuing rehospitalization, overcrowding or inadequate care. Hospital bed occupancy here averages 91.8%, while the OECD average is 77%.

The rate of Israeli MRI scans (for diagnosis and treatment) per capita, which was among the lowest in the developed world, has risen “significantly” to four per million but is still very low compared to the OECD average of 14.9; only two OECD countries have lower MRI rates.

Fertility rates for Israeli women aged 15 to 49 are among the highest in the developed world, with 3.1 children delivered by each woman during her lifetime, compared to 1.7 in the OECD.

The proportion of Israelis between the ages of 14 and 65 – the potential workforce – is the highest in the world, however the ministry does not mention that many Israeli ultra-Orthodox men and Arab women of these ages do not work.

Life expectancy here is seventh highest in the OECD countries (80 years here compared to the OECD average of 77.9). However, the gap between Israel and the OECD average is smaller for females than for males, thus Israeli women’s longevity ranks only 14th in the OECD.

Infant mortality here is low, with 3.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 3.9 in the OECD.

As an expression of the high out-of-pocket health expenses here, 85.5% of the Israel population hold supplementary health insurance from their health funds or from commercial insurance companies; this compared to the OECD average of 36%. When rated for quality of life in the field of health, Israel was in a respectable seventh place.

Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, in his comment on the report, said that the data showed that this country has a high-quality health system and long lifespans. “The data stress places where we have to improve. The plans that I am leading in hospital emergency rooms, MRI scanners, shortening queues for care and preventing infections will contribute to continued improvement of our health system and in its standing in the OECD,” he said.

Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov added that the figures “accurately reflect” our health system.

Aside from figures that show we are near the top, regarding medical infrastructures we must improve considerably.

The ministry is making efforts regarding emergency rooms, MRIs, waiting times for surgery in the public system and a wide variety of other actions to strengthen the public system while putting the brakes on the private

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