(photo credit: Judy Siegel)
Shocked by Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri's decision last week to prohibit the health funds from offering certain expensive drugs in their supplementary health insurance plans, the Israel Cancer Association has demanded changes to protect the economically disadvantaged.
ICA Chairman Prof. Eliezer Robinson and Director-General Miri Ziv sent a letter to the minister on Monday, saying his decision - initiated by the Finance Ministry - left patients with serious diseases bereft. The latest supplementary insurance policies offered by Maccabi Health Services and Clalit Health Services provided cancer patients with lifesaving and life-extending drugs that are not supplied to patients who do not have supplementary policies, they said.
These drugs are not included in the general basket of medical services covered by the basic health insurance plans.
Now, as the basket is being updated by only some NIS 350 million a year through 2010, there will not be enough money to include many of these new drugs.
The ICA heads demanded that the Health Ministry insist the Treasury agree to an automatic updating of the health basket by two percent per year, which would add many more vital drugs to the basket and eliminate the health officials' annual pleas to Finance Ministry budget officials for more money. If not, they insisted, the ministry must allow supplementary insurance policies to continue to offer additional drugs, while paying for policies for the economically disadvantaged so they would not be left out.
Asked to comment, the Health Ministry spokeswoman said Ben-Yizri agreed to the Treasury's demand that extra medications not be offered in supplementary insurance policies because it was "inequitable for the more than two million Israelis" who did not carry those policies. Ben-Yizri "understands the feelings of all the critics, but he has responsibility for all residents and not only those who can afford private insurance," and not only the supplementary health insurance policies of the public health funds.
The spokeswoman added that patients who have already started receiving drugs not included in the basket through their supplementary insurance policies would continue to get them even after the cancellation.