The four health funds took in NIS 2.3 billion last year for their supplementary health insurance policies, which provide benefits not included in the state basket of health services and which are held by 59 percent to 85% of Israelis. The sum was 12% higher than in the previous year.
This data and more appears in the Health Ministry's 43-page report for 2008 on supplementary health insurance policies, released for publication on Wednesday.
Written by the ministry's Revital Topper Haver-Tov and external accountant Daphna Ravid, the report notes that the health funds - Clalit Health Services, Maccabi Health Services, Kupat Holim Meuhedet and Kupat Holim Leumit - are not permitted to run their supplementary health programs at a deficit, and any profit made from them each year must be plowed back into them the following year.
Of the income from supplementary plans, NIS 1.8b. was spent on policy holders last year, while the figure was NIS 1.6b. in 2007.
During 2007-08, the government prohibited the health funds from providing lifesaving and life-extending drugs not included in the basket to members who had the most expensive supplementary health insurance from their public health funds. The reason given was that people who couldn't afford supplementary health insurance should not be "discriminated against"; however, there were those who maintained that it was being done to benefit private health insurance companies that did provide such drugs for considerably more money.
Each of the health funds has two different supplementary health insurance policies for members, one more expensive than the other. Fully 88% of Maccabi members pay for each level of supplementary health insurance. By comparison, 81% of Meuhedet members use the less-expensive plan and 33% the more expensive one, while the numbers are 81% and 37% respectively for members of Clalit, and 65% and 57% among Leumit members.
Members' main uses of supplementary health insurance policies were to choose a surgeon and/or go for surgery at a private hospital; have operations not included in the standard basket; get a second opinion following a health fund doctor's diagnosis; get rehabilitation and private nursing care after surgery; receive dental care; and acquire certain medications that were not lifesaving or life-extending and vaccines not in the basket.
Older people were much more likely to have supplementary health insurance than children and young adults.
The official price of supplementary health insurance policies was highest at Meuhedet - significantly higher than its competitors. A ministry official explained that Meuhedet did not, in fact, charge the official high prices and had a "special family rate." In addition, it added dental care for children up to the age of 12 without raising costs.
The ministry was watching prices all the time, the official said, and would not approve a rise in premiums unless a health fund expanded its services.
The full report is available in Hebrew on the ministry's Web site at www.health.gov.il.