Senior Israelis play table tennis as they take part in games for people over 65 years old, organized by a nursing home in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon held a hastily arranged news conference at the Treasury on Monday night to announce a “new NIS 1 billion national geriatric nursing program.” No official explanation for the last-minute event was given, but sources at one of the ministries said it was a “political decision by the ministers.”
Kahlon said that “the current crisis is the result of years of criminal neglect... This program provides a national safety net for our parents and our children and a clear message – that the state [starting today] is reaching deep into its pocket and taking responsibility for its citizens. We have a very strong economy, and in recent months, I have heard endless discussions about what to do with the higher income from taxation. There is no better way to invest the surplus than in our elderly.”
Litzman added: “This is a historic opportunity for social rehabilitation for the elderly, for the nursing homes and for all citizens of Israel, who will be entitled to a wide coverage of public geriatric nursing services.”
Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn, who was also present, said: “This is an evening of news, and we are completing a process that will change the face of the state in the field of geriatric nursing. The meaning of long-term care insurance is to mobilize for the benefit of the nursing person, both at home and in the community.”
Kahlon, Litzman, Nissenkorn and Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen presented details of the program, which will be implemented gradually starting in January. It will provide additional hours of free home nursing treatment – an up to 40% increase in the number of hours of treatment given to the elderly who need complex geriatric nursing care at home. The maximum value of the care will be about NIS 5,000 a month.
The program, said the ministers, will create a new layer of nursing allowances for the elderly who enjoy a high functional level – about NIS 1,000 per month extra.
The means test, which analyzes a person’s ability to pay for geriatric nursing care, will be abolished.
Basic dental care for the elderly will be added to the basket of health services. In addition, the four public health funds will increase their involvement in treating the sick elderly at home, using doctors, nurses and telemedicine. The health funds will develop a rehabilitation system in the community to improve the quality of life of the elderly, slow the deterioration in their health and extend their healthy life expectancy.
Red tape will be cut down to a single form and one test for every elderly person. A professional case manager will help the elderly and their families benefit from their elder rights and prepare a customized treatment plan that will serve as “a single address” for all the needs of the elderly.
The ministers said that the wages of caregivers will be raised to encourage qualified people to enter the profession. In addition, those with geriatric nursing policies who are over the age of 60 will be allowed to switch health funds without a qualifying period.
“The program is a first step in the right direction, and I am happy that after four years of struggle, positive and important elements of my bill have been adopted,” said MK Itzik Shmuli in reaction to the news. “However, despite these good things, this is not a state geriatric nursing model, and now, mainly because the additional money will not cover all the huge expenses of geriatric nursing care in institutions, those who do not hold commercial insurance will not survive financially.
He added that, “there is no real solution for commercial long-term nursing-care insurance whose policies are being cancelled. We will take the positive elements of the proposal and work in the coming weeks to expand it.”