Health Ministry criticized over private expenditures

Budget to supplement health basket rises by only 28% though health taxes increased by 76%.

Litzman 311 (photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH)
Litzman 311
While health taxes paid by the public increased by 76 percent between 1997 and 2011, the Health Ministry’s budget to supplement the health basket rose during that time by only 28%.
The huge gap, according to the Adva Center for Information for Equality and Social Justice in Israel – which supplied the statistics on Tuesday – explains the shortage of so many hospital beds, as well as why patients who need psychiatric care wait for such long periods of time.
Adva executive director Barbara Swirski wrote the organization’s report, titled “The State Does Not Take Care of Health.”
The report notes that in 1997, the average household spent 3.8% of its monthly expenses on health, compared to 5% in 2010; in that same year, the OECD average for household expenditures on health was only 3.2%.
Much of the increase in private health expenditures, wrote Swirski, was due to household payments for supplementary health insurance from public and commercial insurers because residents saw the shrinking of state healthcare services.
Between 1997 and 2011, private expenditures for healthcare rose by 475 percent, from NIS 23.50 to NIS 135.3 per month. The Adva Center document called on the government to halt the process of healthcare privatization and instead strengthen the public system. This can be achieved, it said, by setting an automatic 2% annual increase in the health basket; prohibiting the sale of supplementary and commercial health insurance for services that are considered vital or important to health, and including them in the national health basket; and including dental care for children and the elderly, and geriatric nursing and psychiatric care in the basket.
Asked to comment, the Health Ministry spokeswoman said that “the source of Adva’s data was in previous Health Ministry reports, and there is nothing new in its data.” She maintained that the ministry was “working in recent years to reduce the burden on the public by cancelling well-baby clinic fees, adding children’s basic dental services to the basket, reducing the cost of drugs and expanding public funding of hearing aids.”
The spokeswoman added that the ministry had made efforts to increase the number of hospital beds (although none had yet been added) and double the number of MRI scanners (although these were only approved by the ministry, which stopped putting quotas on their use but did not provide all hospitals with special funding to purchase them).