A private member's bill to make it easier for Israeli expatriates to return and get health care - opposed by the government - was approved for its first reading by the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee on Wednesday. It will go soon to the plenum. The bill, sponsored by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), would shorten the waiting time for returnees who did not pay National Insurance Institute fees for health services while abroad before they are entitled to full membership benefits in a public health fund. Currently, the waiting time for those who didn't pay the fees while abroad is two months for every year of absence from Israel - up to a maximum of 18 months. The waiting time can be shortened by making a special penalty payment. The bill's supporters say the present arrangement harms returning Israelis who had been abroad for many years and prevents them from enjoying the basic basket of health services subsidized by the state. The government opposes the bill because it fears it would encourage ill Israeli emigrants to return only to get expensive health care. The bill would reduce the waiting time to a month for each year of absence with a maximum of six months; allow the National Insurance Institute to set a shorter waiting time for Israelis who left the country for medical treatment; and make it possible to pay the penalty fee in one payment rather than over a six-month period, during which they have to wait to get coverage (they would nevertheless be ineligible to receive at health fund expense either in-vitro fertilization or medical treatments they were entitled to abroad).