(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
In an unprecedented move, the High Court of Justice decided unanimously on Thursday to cancel the government’s December 14, 2009 decision – initiated by Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman – to cut NIS 65 million from the expansion of the 2010 medical technologies’ budget to finance subsidized dental care for children up to the age of eight.
The case was initiated by the Dolev Fund for Medical Justice, the Israel Medical Association (IMA) and the Movement for Quality Government, which objected to the fact that the basket of health technologies was cut at the last moment to supply other needs.
The Dolev Fund’s lawyer, Gilad Rogel, said that he regarded the decision as a “victory for the patients for whom the money that must be returned to the basket is a life-and-death matter. Every day they wait for medications that they were prevented from getting in violation of the law.
“The High Court of Justice provided today its very important social and public function – to protect the public from its elected officials and its government. Somebody should have stopped and reined in government power, and the court was the last barrier that prevented the law from being grossly violated,” said Rogel.
He added that the fund did not deny that dental care for children and the elderly is important.
“Our argument is about the way. We are not willing for this to happen at the expense of money given in compensation over costs for lifesaving drugs that were taken out of the supplementary health insurance policies” by the government.
Litzman had presented the shifting of funds from the drug basket to dental care for children as a major accomplishment for him and the move was highly popular among haredim with large young families.
But it evaporated even before the court decision, as Prime Minister and Health Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, as well as the Treasury, took steps immediately after the cabinet decision on dental care to require the establishment of a fifth health fund to provide dental treatment.
The Health Ministry responded: “The High Court of Justice decided, and we are looking at the implications. The court saw a technical fault in the process, and that the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee should have been the one to approve it,” rather than the public committee recommending the expansion of the basket and the cabinet.
Ministry management, said the ministry spokeswoman, is nevertheless looking for ways to bring about dental subsidies for children when it is supposed to begin on July 1.
IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman – whose organization has been a strong critic of Litzman since he took office – said the 17-page court ruling backed up the IMA’s argument of illegality immediately after it was pushed by the deputy health minister.
He called the decision as “a victory for democracy” and noted that the Treasury had allocated only a small sum to the NIS 65m. that was to be removed from the basket expansion, thus the money available for dental care for young children was totally inadequate.
Kadima MK Rachel Adatto, a physician and lawyer by profession, welcomed the court ruling and said that while there is a real need for subsidized dental care, it has to be budgeted from a separate source and not come at the expense of others.
Health consumer organizations called on Litzman to reconvene immediately
the public committee that recommended the expansion of the basket to
choose the NIS 65m. worth of medical technologies that the health funds
will have to supply to their members and that had been cancelled at the
last minute because of the dental-care initiative.
The three-member court panel of Justices Miriam Naor, Hanan Meltzer and
Yitzhak Amit ruled that the government had not observed the National
Health Insurance Law regarding adding a new field to the basket of
health services and that it lacked the authority to do so without
consulting the Knesset.
The court stated it was rare that the Knesset voiced an opinion contrary
to that of the government.