Equal health services to non-Israeli children bill rejected

Finance Ministry and Health Ministry's claims that they already enjoy an "optimal arrangement."

foreign worker 88 (photo credit: )
foreign worker 88
(photo credit: )
A bill that would have equalized the rights to health services of non-Israeli children living in Israel with those of their Israeli counterparts was rejected Sunday night by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation due to opposition by the Finance Ministry and the Health Ministry's view that they already enjoy an "optimal arrangement." No information was available on how many and which ministers voted in favor or against the bill. The bill was initiated by the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel organization as an amendment to the National Health Insurance Law of 1994, and it was presented by Hadash MK Dov Hanin. He will now try to persuade a cabinet minister to appeal the vote. In February 2001, an arrangement to provide health services to children who are residing here but who do not have citizenship came into effect. These included foreign workers' kids, new immigrants whose parents' status hadn't yet been recognized, refugees and children of "mixed" parentage. Kupat Holim Meuhedet was contracted to provide these services. However, PHR-Israel maintains that in the field, many of the children are not getting what they deserve and need. For example, children have to wait six months after their arrival to be eligible for health services. If they suffer from a preexisting medical problem, in some cases they cannot receive treatment for it here. Children who are not citizens cannot receive some services if their parents don't register and pay a fee for them, unlike Israeli children, who are entitled to these services without registration and payment. There is also no mechanism to exempt certain families from having to pay fees. If the father is Israeli and the mother is a foreigner, the couple must prove their parentage with genetic tests to register the child with a health fund. This is expensive and takes considerable time, and frequently, newborn babies to mixed couples have to wait a long time to receive services. If one or both of the parents is Palestinian, they cannot get services from Meuhedet under the arrangement. In addition, children who are staying in Israel alone without their families and are unable to register with Meuhedet by themselves go without health care. Ran Cohen, director of PHR-Israel's department for migrants and those lacking status in Israel, said his organization would continue to fight for the rights to health services for all children living in Israel. "This is governmental refusal to recognize the suffering of thousands of children in Israel, and also violates international agreements to which Israel has committed itself." Hanin said that "time after time, the government of Israel has failed on even the most basic tests of humanity and human rights only because their legal status has not been arranged. This is a moral lapse that is difficult to describe in words." The Health Ministry spokeswoman claimed last week that the Meuhedet arrangement was an "optimal" one that met the health needs of all the non-citizen children residing in Israel.