Basket budget increase doesn't mean more subsidized drugs

Wednesday’s dramatic announcement of an additional NIS 230 million for the health basket referred only to money to be given to the four public health funds.

Pills medicine medication treatment (photo credit: Srdjan Zivulovic / Reuters)
Pills medicine medication treatment
(photo credit: Srdjan Zivulovic / Reuters)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Health Minister Yael German announced on Wednesday night that they decided to allocate an additional NIS 230 million to the budget of the basket of health services.
The decision, according to separate statements, was made “in cooperation with Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee chairman Haim Katz.”
However, any patient who understands from the statement that those who need life-saving, life-extending and life-improving drugs – and other medical technologies not included in the 2014 basket – have a chance of getting them is mistaken.
Any drug included in the basket is paid for (except for co-payments) by the health fund. Any outside the basket have to be purchased by the patient, with the inclusion of value- added tax.
The public committee on expanding the basket, chaired by Shaare Zedek director-general Prof. Jonathan Halevy, received only NIS 300m. to update the basket of new technologies and new medical indications for existing technologies.
On the next-to-the-last day of 2013, the committee set the priority list among 600 proposed technologies, costing almost NIS 2 billion, and decided on 83 of them.
However, the Treasury had agreed to allocate for 2014 only NIS 300m. – the amount given in each of the previous two years, despite the growth and aging of the population.
In fact, Wednesday’s dramatic announcement, of an additional NIS 230m. for the health basket, referred only to money intended for the four public health funds – after the High Court of Justice criticized the government last year for keeping the insurers in a chronic state of deficit.
The money will not go to expanding this year’s basket – to purchase new drugs. The allocation will be supplied, the two ministers said, by “updating the components of the Health Index retroactive to 2012. This budgetary addition is a continuation of the steps taken by the government in the last year to strengthen the health funds and the public health system,” Lapid and German said.
For years, health economists and other experts have called for the government to update the health basket automatically by two percent a year, instead of annually forcing Health Ministry officials to “beg” Treasury officials for additional funds for expanding the budget.
The current NIS 300m. to add more medical technologies is about half the amount needed to provide a two percent automatic increase.