Health Ministry mum about automatic co-payment increase

Doctors say complaints received from patients in all four public health funds that no information given about new increase.

By
April 4, 2011 05:28
2 minute read.
Hospitalized man [illustrative]

man in hospital bed with nurse 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Doctors said Sunday that they have been receiving complaints from patients in all four public health funds that they were not informed about a government-approved April 1 increase in co-payments.

The Health Ministry did not issue a notice to the public about the new increase either before or after the hike.

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Unwilling to give their names because of their dependence on the health funds, the physicians told The Jerusalem Post that some patients complained they were not able to afford visits to specialists due to the ongoing increases. A visit to a specialist costs NIS 21 per quarter per person now, compared to NIS 20.

While this may seem minimal, they said, it adds up when considering the different specialties and variety of chronic illnesses and the fact that each member of the family must pay.

But Dr. Yoel Lipschitz, the Health Ministry deputy director-general who is in charge of supervising the health funds, said that on every April 1, the health funds are entitled to raise their co-payments each year according to the cost of living index.

“It is an automatic increase, thus ministry approval is automatic,” Lipschitz said.

Lipschitz said that the copayment for a visit to the doctor was NIS 15 in 1998. Thirteen years later, it is “only NIS 21.”

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This is an accumulated 30-percent increase since then, and increases are determined by hikes in the “health cost of living.”

The change from the 2010 health cost of living was 2.9%, the deputy director-general said, compared to a 3.34% increase during the previous year. Maximum limits for co-payments are also updated regularly, he added.

Lipschitz did not explain why the ministry – even if not required by law – did not inform the public anyway.

One health economist who would not be quoted said that the ministry has regularly stated in recent years that it wants to lower co-payments because of the growing gap between rich and poor, the growing share of out-of-pocket health expenses and the inability of numerous individuals to access the healthcare they need because of the extra costs beyond monthly health insurance. Private spending on health in Israel is among the highest in most of the developed world, he said.

The co-payment increases go across the board and include cost per medication, home doctors‚ visits to a healthcare center, emergency room visits, certain physiotherapy treatments, Magen David Adom emergency services, fertility treatments, complex nursing care and more.

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