MKs vote down health basket increase

Numerous political leaders came out in favor of an identical bill presented in the previous Knesset.

Medicine pills drugs prescription 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Medicine pills drugs prescription 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
The Knesset on Wednesday voted down a bill that would automatically increase the budget for the basket of medical technologies by 2 percent each year.
Numerous political leaders from Prime Minister and (formally) Health Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on down had come out in favor of an identical bill presented in the previous Knesset.
This time, however, they opposed the legislation. That meant the current bill did not have the government’s support, and had to be submitted as a private member’s bill.
“The only drug that politicians in this country need is a pill against amnesia,” MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) said.
MK Zehava Gal-On, who initiated the current legislation along with other Meretz MKs, said on a more serious note: “People forgo medications they need because they can’t afford to buy them. Private expenditure for health is twice as large in Israel as in other OECD countries. This bill is egalitarian. It represents social justice. Life expectancy is rising, but if people don’t have quality of life, more years have no meaning.
“Israeli medicine is among the best in the world, but many technologies remain outside the basket because of its low budget. Health services must be available to all, and no one should be forced to mortgage his home to pay for his health.”
Patient organization representatives charged that before the last election was held in February 2009, ministers “looked us in the eye without blinding and promised to support legislation to ensure automatic increases in the basket,” Gal-On said.
“Without such a mechanism, Health Ministry officials have to beg the Treasury to increase allocations. Budget officials prefer to ‘play’ with the budget as they like without a law that would limit their power.
This is one of the anti-social acts of the Netanyahu government, whose members were among the strong supporters of the bill two years ago.”
The bill was first presented by then-MK Haim Oron (Meretz), and before the election, MK Yuval Steinitz – now finance minister – and his Likud party supported it, the patients’ groups said. It was also pointed out that Defense Minister Ehud Barak (then Labor, now of Independence), Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beiteinu), Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) and other prominent leaders committed themselves to support the measure.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) has not voiced support for the bill.
The public committee for updating the basket, due to present its recommendations by the end of the month, has been presented with some 600 new medications and other medical technologies – some of them lifesaving, some life-extending and others that would improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of citizens. They would cost NIS 3 billion to include in the basket, but the Treasury has agreed to an increase of only NIS 300 million in 2012.
Gal-On said that the financing of the basket has eroded in recent years, increasing the social and economic gaps. As a result, a fifth of the population can’t afford to pay for supplementary health insurance from their health funds.