New booklet promises to answer public's health fund queries

Health minister says booklet was created by the ministry and not by the health funds so that it would be regarded as objective.

health scan 88 (photo credit: )
health scan 88
(photo credit: )
In the next few days, all Israeli residents will receive a 30-page Health Ministry booklet by mail informing them of their rights to healthcare, where to get it and where to complain if they don't. The booklet, which updates the first, less-detailed edition released five years ago, was formally presented on Monday to Knesset Speaker and acting president MK Dalia Itzik in her Knesset office by Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri. She said that the publication was "an excellent idea" and was written in a clear, understandable way. Ben-Yizri said the booklet was created by the ministry and not by the four health funds so that it would be regarded as objective information on how the National Health Insurance Law, which went into effect in 1995, is being carried out in relation to every resident. The booklet, whose cover presents a rainbow slashing across white clouds in a blue sky, explains who is entitled to health insurance coverage from a public health fund; how to switch to another insurer; how to find out what is included in the basket of health services provided by the insurers; what supplementary health insurance from the health funds may provide; where to complain if you are dissatisfied; and what types of medical equipment are subsidized by the ministry. In addition, Israelis who spent long periods abroad are informed how to continue their health insurance coverage. Additional pages state who is exempt from paying for hospital emergency room treatment and ambulance service and who is regarded as chronically ill (with a maximum limit of out-of-pocket fees for medications). It ends with a detail list of addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of relevant authorities and a list of labor courts that accept lawsuits against health funds. The booklet is being sent automatically and free to 1.35 million households, with most of them in Hebrew. In localities where the majority of the population is Arab-speaking, the booklet will be sent in Arabic. It is new, even though Ben-Yizri's opening message was dated March 2007. An invitation to order the booklet in English, Arabic and Amharic (but not Russian) from the ministry or from one's health fund is printed on the first page in Hebrew only, rather than in these languages. Asked about this, the ministry's deputy director-general in charge of information and the booklet's production, Ya'ir Amikam, explained the lack of a Russian edition by the fact that "90 percent of former Russian immigrants speaks Hebrew and few Russian-speaking immigrants have arrived in recent years. If one or two Israelis receive the booklet in a language they can't read, or don't receive one, the ministry apologizes in advance."