The heads of 69 professional medical societies under the aegis of the Israel Medical Association (IMA) have called on the chairman of the public commission for recommending expansion of the basket of health services to insist on an additional NIS 300 million for the basket in 2008. This would mean more than doubling of the value of medications and medical technologies that could be offered patients by their health funds at state expense. The heads of the societies, which include those for endocrinology, urology, geneticists, surgery, psychiatry, infectious diseases, public health and many more, called on Prof. Menachem Fainaru to demand the doubling of funds to expand the basket. Fainaru, a former dean of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Medical Faculty, does not have the authority to expand the basket but only, with his 16-member committee, to recommend priorities for the NIS 275m. allocated by the Treasury for 2008. The societiesâ€š chairmen said they are very worried about the lack of funding for new medications and technologies, as the NIS 275m. addition was "minuscule and sentences thousands of patients to a life without hope, to a life of continuing illness, unbearable suffering and even death." The expansion of the budget has never kept up to new developments in lifesaving technologies, they told Fainaru, who previously was head of Maccabi Health Services' medical division. Health experts and a variety of MKs have been demanding that the basket be expanded automatically by two percent, meaning about NIS 600m. a year, but the Treasury prefers to pull the strings and decide how much will be allocated, and the Health Ministry is increasingly unable to influence the Treasury. IMA chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar, who was a member of the health basket committee since it was established in 1999, resigned when the new committee was selected a few weeks ago, charging that it was powerless to make significant decisions and overly controlled by government officials. The committee, in addition to Fainaru, consists of Dr. Rahel Adatto of the National Council for Women's Health; Prof. Adi Shani of the National Oncology Council; new Health Ministry medical division head Dr. Hezi Levi; a representative of Maccabi Health Services; Dr. Andy Whiteman of Kupat Holim Leumit; Dr. Nicki Lieberman of Clalit Health Services; Dr. Ze'ev Abramson of Kupat Holim Meuhedet; lawyer Dalia Rabin-Pelosof; health system ombudsman Etti Semama' ethicist Prof. Noam Zohar and Rabbi Yuval Cherlo, as well as economists Reuven Kagan of the Treasury, Iris Ginsburg of the veteran pension funds, Health Ministry official Yoel Lifschitz and Health Ministry planning and budgets director Ruth Ralbag. They are now meeting and due to present their recommendations to the Health and Finance Ministries by the end of December.