(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The number of health insurance members who switched to another insurer in the last five years has risen significantly, partially due to the ease of changing via the Internet rather than in person at a post office branch.
But the rare move of shifting to a different health insurer remains small – only 2% so far in 2016 – especially in cities and towns with a high socioeconomic level, according to a Health Ministry report from statistics gleaned from National Insurance Institute (NII) records.
Residents of low socioeconomic places are significantly more likely to apply for a change, apparently due to the fact that the health funds have made a real effort to attract low-income, ultra-Orthodox young couples who need less-expensive medical services than older, secular Jews and others. Of the 10 towns with the highest rate of switching, eight were in the Arab sector.
Maccabi Health Services, the second largest of the four health insurers, gained the most members with a net increase of about 21,000, while the smallest, Leumit Health Services, lost the most, also approximately 21,000. Meuhedet Health Services had a net gain of some 700 new members, while Clalit Health Services, by far the largest of the four funds, experienced a net loss of approximately 700 members.
For the first three years since the inception of the National Health Insurance system in 1995, individuals who wanted to switch funds had to go to their insurer in person and fill out forms.
Although this red tape did not encourage changes, 4% of residents changed health funds during the early years.
In 1998, changes in the system allowed one to merely go to a post office, fill out a form and pay an NIS 17 handling fee. Five years ago, the system began to allow customers to switch insurers via the website of the National Insurance Institute (www.btl.gov.il), which is responsible for collecting health taxes from residents and allocating them among the health funds. No fee is charged for switching via the website.
In the first 10 months of 2016, a total of 164,398 members changed insurers via the post office, a 20% increase from 2015, and 93,167, or 15% more than last year, did so via the website. During all of 2015, the figures were 140,187 and 81,052, respectively.
Each year, there are six deadline dates for switching insurers, and one is permitted to make a change twice a year. While residents were most likely to switch via the Internet to join Maccabi, members of Leumit were most likely to make the change at the post office.