(photo credit: )
The state is paying for Viagra and other anti-impotence drugs for some of the 578 Very Important Persons still entitled to generous free medical benefits, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The group of VIPs includes former presidents, prime ministers, Supreme Court justices, judges in all the civil courts, Jewish and Muslim religious court judges, MKs and directors-general of government ministries - and their dependents.
The arrangement began innocently in the 1950s when a Supreme Court justice asked then-prime minister David Ben-Gurion for help in avoiding the need to seek insurance from one of the health funds then affiliated with political parties.
It was gradually expanded to include many more categories of VIPs, but a 1986 law prevented most new VIPs from being added to the list.
In an interview Tuesday with The Jerusalem Post, acting head of the Health Ministry's medical branch Dr. Michael Dor, who is charged with overseeing and checking all requests for reimbursements, said he wished the benefits could be cancelled, but efforts in the Knesset over the years have not been successful.
Now, the Treasury wants to place a tax on the benefits.
In addition to drugs that are not provided by the health funds, hearing aids, shoe insoles, certain types of vitamins and NIS 313 per day for geriatric nursing facilities, there is coverage for anti-impotence drugs or any medication - prescription or over-the-counter - that is registered by the ministry as a drug but not supplied by the health funds.
But some VIPs may have gone too far. Dor recalls turning down the case of a member of the exclusive club who had the temerity to ask to give a written declaration of payment to a physiotherapist who "refuses to give receipts" (meaning that he or she doesn't pay taxes on income) so he could be reimbursed by the ministry.
Although the VIPs are getting old and gradually passing away, the cost to the state of supplying their medical needs is increasing - from NIS 11.7 million in 2005 to NIS 13.3 million in 2006 - as geriatric nursing is very expensive.
A Health Page feature on VIP medical care will be published on the Health Page on Sunday, November 4.