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MKs from from across the political spectrum have sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On and Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri demanding the immediate appointment of a public committee to decide what new medications and medical technologies to include in the basket of health services for 2008.
Lawmakers from Meretz, Shas, Gil Pensioners, the National Religious Party, Likud, Labor, Agudat Yisrael, Israel Beiteinu and Arab parties joined the plea to revive the panel, whose last incarnation met to recommend changes to the health basket for 2006.
In the past, the committee, composed of nearly two dozen doctors, government officials, medical ethicists and public representatives, usually met in the summer and fall so an expanded basket could be approved by the first of January.
The MKs, headed by Ya'acov Margi of Shas, said the issue was not political but rather an effort to save lives.
The tenure of the previous basket committee, headed by Prof. Mordechai Shani, has expired, and the last time it met was to recommend priorities for drugs and medical technologies for 2006. No new drugs were added in 2007.
As 2008 nears, the gap between new drugs that save lives and improve quality of life and the current basket has seriously widened, with many patients suffering from serious diseases unable to pay for the drugs themselves. The health funds are obliged to supply their members with medications and technologies that are added to the basket, and a Treasury allocation funds the additions.
MK Moshe Sharoni of Gil, chairman of the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee, said he did "not believe in the health services basket apparatus. "My view is that whatever medicine can offer patients should be available to them. But as long as this apparatus exists, the public committee should already be working energetically. Finance Ministry officials should not be the ones to decide who lives and who dies."
Meretz MK Haim Oron, who heads the public health lobby in the Knesset, said the fact that the committee did not currently exist and that no allocation had been set to expand the basket was one of the present government's greatest scandals.