Meuhedet finally replaces allegedly corrupt chief

Third biggest HMO looks to recover from ‘one-man rule’ and restore public and government trust.

ASHER ELHAYANY 311 (photo credit: Meir Medical Center)
(photo credit: Meir Medical Center)
Dr. Asher Elhayany, director-general of Clalit Health Services’ Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, has been chosen as director-general of Kupat Holim Meuhedet, the third-largest health fund and a Clalit competitor.
The search committee headed by retired judge Tom Ophir said that the vote was carried out unanimously late on Tuesday night from among three solid candidates among an initial list of 48.
Elhayany replaces Shmuel Muallem, who was in the Mehedet post for three years but was forced to resign by order of the Health Ministry. The ministry took action in January on the basis of last year’s severe report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on Meuhedet, whose senior officials and board members has also been investigated by police for alleged nepotism, misuse of funds and corruption.
“Ahead of him lie serious challenges, especially in the field of changing the culture of management, and introducing effective supervision factors within the system,” Dr.
Yoel Lipschitz, the ministry’s deputy director- general in charge of supervising the four public health funds, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
He added that Meuhedet, which despite the charges is a very popular health fund, “has excellent potential with a significant proportion of young members without financial problems, and with proper management can be among the leaders among the health insurers.”
Meuhedet has a significant presence in Jerusalem and popularity among the modern-Orthodox and haredi publics; it began in 1931 in the capital when it was founded as Amamit by doctors at Hadassah University Medical Center. It changed its name and composition to Meuhedet in 1974. Unlike two of the four health funds, Meuhedet is not politicized. Politics were abandoned by Clalit and Kupat Holim Leumit in 1995 when the National Health Insurance Law went into effect.
Among the allegations against Muallem and other managers was not only waste of funds, high salaries, unnecessary trips abroad with their families and the chief pharmacist running his private Jerusalem pharmacy with Meuhedet staffers, but also giving illegal benefits to some yeshiva students.
Meuhedet regards haredi families (and to a much lesser extent, Arab families) as very profitable for it. While they have many children, the National Insurance Institute, not the funds, covers all hospital delivery costs, and these families are younger and healthier on average than non-haredim.
Haredim are also less aware of the expensive medical services available in the health basket and don’t generally demand them.
Haredim constitute 40 percent of Meuhedet members in Jerusalem, and they bring money, in the form of health tax, to the health fund.
Lipschitz said Elhayany would have to “rehabilitate the trust of the ministry and their insured in the health fund, and focus on the proper corporate status of Meuhedet,” instead of the one-man rule that was in effect under Muallem, who worked in lower positions in the health fund for decades. The ministry deputy director- general wishes Elhayany much success.
The announcement of the appointment was made by Rabbi Yerachmiel Boyer, a haredi who was for years board chairman of Meuhedet, and was criticized by the comptroller for naivete and lack of initiative and supervision of officials’ work.
Elhayany received his medical degree from Ben-Gurion University’s Health Sciences Faculty in 1980. He also studied public and medical administration at Harvard University and worked as a family physician in Clalit Health Services. He was a deputy director of Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba and a member of the board of the National Center for Health Policy Research.
Born in 1952, Elhayany is married with four children. He has been head of Meir since 1997.
Elhayany said after being chosen that Meuhedet has “thousands of devoted doctors and other professional workers who put Meuhedet as “No. 1 in satisfaction” among members. “The challenge now is to preserve the advantages, correct what needs fixing and return to lead in the quality of medical care and the level of service to members.”
The other two finalists were Dr. Yair Birnbaum, deputy director-general of the Hadassah Medical Organization, and an administrator at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Tzrifin. Haredi websites speculated that Birnbaum was not chosen because he, who is modern Orthodox, caught an extreme hassidic woman starving her small son when he suspected she has Munchausen-byproxy syndrome. Haredim threatened to boycott Hadassah, but the suspicions were proven accurate by a court. The mother even today is not allowed contact with her many children without supervision, and is under treatment at Hadassah.
Birnbaum, who is regarded as a very effective administrator, does not have any plans now to leave Hadassah; his director-general, Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, will be replaced around the end of this year by Prof. Ehud Kokia, the director-general of Maccabi Health Services (the second-largest health fund).