Litzman opposes cuts to health basket expansion

Finance Committee chairman Gafni NIS 300m. vital for patients and needed to cover medications for a growing and aging population.

Health Basket Committee 311 (photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH)
Health Basket Committee 311
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman found himself at odds with both his director- general, Dr. Ronni Gamzu, and the Knesset Finance Committee Tuesday regarding the expansion of the health basket.
A few weeks ago, Gamzu had asked for a 10-percent reduction in the NIS 300 million that the Treasury has added to the basket of medical technologies for 2012.
That 10% would be reallocated to enable reduced co-payments for disadvantaged groups.
However, at Tuesday’s meeting of the Finance Committee, Litzman disagreed and said the basket expansion sum, which would provide subsidized drugs for patients who need them, should not be reduced.
The MKs on the committee reiterated its demand that a law be passed to update the basket automatically by 2% every year, thereby avoiding the need for the Finance Ministry to decide on the amount annually.
However, Litzman has not publicly expressed his backing for such a move since he took office.
Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (UTJ) said he, too, opposed reallocating the expansion money, because the NIS 300m. was vital for patients and needed to cover medications for a growing and aging population.
Meanwhile, Kadima MK Rachel Adatto, one of three MKs who initiated the discussion, demanded an automatic annual update despite Treasury opposition. Not only did she oppose reducing the health basket sum, she attacked Litzman for not fighting vigorously to expand it by much more than NIS 300m.; in previous years, the sum was double that amount.
In response to Adatto, Yair Zilberstein, representing the Treasury’s Budget Division, said that in the last three years, the prices of drugs had declined because of the fall in the value of the dollar.
“NIS 300m. today is like NIS 450m. a few years ago,” he said.
Although Litzman said he had vetoed Gamzu’s proposal for a 10% reduction in the expansion money, he himself pushed for a reduction of NIS 65m. in the expansion funds a few years ago so he could offer subsidized dental care for children up to eight years old.
Israel Medical Association representatives at the meeting said that since the National Health Insurance Law was passed in 1994, state investment in health had continued to erode, and the public’s outof- pocket spending had risen considerably.
As a result, many low-income patients forgo medical treatment they need, they said.
The IMA also gave its support for updating the basket automatically.