OECD comparison of health systems show achievements and failings in Israel

Annual report compares more than 40 health indicators in 34 countries.

Doctor and patient (illustrative). (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Doctor and patient (illustrative).
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Israelis – especially men – have longer life expectancies than the average in countries making up the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, according to the body’s annual report on health indicators.
However, the report, which came out on Tuesday, criticized Israel’s health system for its high out-of-pocket expenses and low rate of hospital beds.
In its comparison of more than 40 health indicators in the 34 OECD countries, the organization found that Israelis have a 39-percent copayment on health services (the amount that the state doesn’t cover). The OECD average for copayments is only 27%, the report says, adding that the rise in Israel’s copayment rates over the last three years was the highest increase among all OECD countries.
Meanwhile, it found that Israeli men live an average of 80.3 years – two-and-a-half years longer than the average OECD man (77.8 years).
The gap between Israeli and average OECD women is smaller, with the former living 83.9 years compared to 83 for the latter.
In addition, infant mortality is significantly lower here, with 3.1 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to the OECD average of 4.
Israel’s fertility rate among women in the 15-49-year age range is the highest in the OECD, at three children per woman of fertile age compared to 1.7 in the other developed countries. Also high is the number of children under the age of 14 here, at 28.2% of the population – the second-highest in the OECD.
According to the report, the Israeli population is young compared to that of other developed countries, with only 10.9% of people over the age of 65 compared to the average OECD rate of 16.2%. However, the number of seniors is expected to rise significantly here by 2050, to 16.6% of the population.
On the down side, there are only 1.9 hospital beds per 1,000 Israelis, compared to the OECD average of 3.3, making this country third from the bottom among the 34 countries. The low rate means that many patients are discharged too fast, spending an average of 4.3 days in the hospital compared to the OECD average of 6.6.
The hospital occupancy rate here is 94.1% – compared to only 76.1% in the OECD at large – meaning there is more overcrowding and thus more in-hospital (nosocomial) infections.
Another minus for Israel is that its hospitals have only 3.1 magnetic resonance imaging machines (MRIs) per million people, compared to 13.1 in OECD countries overall.
It thus ranks lower than all other OECD members except for two.
Considering the number of working people, the rate of children, youth and elderly who are dependent on the employed is among the highest in Israel (partially due to the low employment rate of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and Arab women).
Meanwhile, the percentage of Israelis holding private or supplementary health insurance policies – a factor that the report measured for the first time – is 82.8% compared to only 36% in other developed countries. This makes Israel third in terms of private insurance, which is not a complimentary statistic for Israel because other states’ finance ministries allocate more for healthcare.
However, Israel’s health system, according to the report, is very efficient, with low rates of waste – and as far as quality of life regarding health issues goes, Israel ranks sixth.
Israeli women age 50-69 are significantly more likely to undergo a mammogram every two years to discover breast cancer (70.5%) than are OECD women in that age group (less than 60%).
In addition, the rate of elderly Israelis who get flu shots is high – 61% compared to the OECD average of 50%.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman said the report showed that Israel must spend more money to advance its health system, including in the periphery.
The necessary changes, he said, include adding more MRIs, shortening lines for hospital emergency rooms, advancing reforms in nursing, and setting up more health centers in the periphery.
His new director-general, Moshe Bar-Siman Tov, said the report “reliably reflects Israel’s health system.”