Treasury designates NIS 300m. for health basket expansion

Move comes amid criticism allocation won’t meet needs; Health Ministry suggests spending a portion on reducing copayments for the poor.

Health Basket Committee 311 (photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH)
Health Basket Committee 311
Health Ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu suggested Sunday that some of the NIS 300 million allocated to expand the basket of medical technologies for 2012 be used to reduce copayments for poor patients, as too many cannot afford health fund treatments and medications with Treasury subsidies.
Gamzu was speaking at the first session of the committee, chaired by Rambam Medical Center director-general Prof. Rafael Beyar for the second year in a row. The committee is tasked with selecting The committee members, who include officials from the health funds, physicians, public representatives and others, have to decide which which of the proposed lifesaving, life-extending and life-improving technologies to add to the 2012 basket provided by the health funds to relevant patients.
Of the 600 proposed worth NIS 2b., only NIS 300m. will be subsidized by the Treasury.
Gamzu said the ministry has in recent years tried to reduce out-of-pocket fees, but that still, “too many people forgo treatments and purchase mediations because they can’t afford the copayments.
The burden is still too heavy for some,” he declared.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who said at the outset that he does not attempt to influence recommendations by the public committee, commented that he and Gamzu “have discussed this. The NIS 300m. that the Treasury agreed on for expanding the basket is too small. We will look for solutions, but I don’t know if [taking money from the basket-expansion budget] is the way to solve this.”
Beyar told The Jerusalem Post at the ministry office in Jerusalem during a break in the first session that the committee members haven’t yet discussed whether to discuss reduction in copayments as a priority for the basket expansion.
Half an hour into the first session, two people – representatives of voluntary patient organizations – suddenly barged their way into the room uninvited and shouted: “You must all resign now. You have done nothing,” they said, complaining that the NIS 300m. will not go far enough to meet the needs of sick people for life-saving, life-extending and life-improving technologies.
They were ushered out, and the incident was followed by an investigation of poor security measures in the ministry building.
Litzman was asked to comment on the criticism voiced last week by former basket committee chairman Prof. Menachem Fainaru, former dean of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, that the expansion budget would provide new medications and other medical technologies to only a quarter of the patients who need them.
Fainaru, who was committee chairman in 2008 and 2009, and other members of the new Coalition of Organizations for the Right to Health, said the committee should not agree to prepare a list of priorities for such an “inadequate sum.”
Litzman and Beyar said one year, the basket was not expanded at all and that in others, the sum was as small as NIS 60m. Beyar said the amount for 2012 was “adequate” but conceded that he wished it were larger. Asked whether his ministry would fight for a two-percent automatic annual addition of money to the basket – often advocated by health experts to avoid shrinkage of the basket and to minimize the power of the Treasury – Litzman avoided answering, saying that only NIS 300m. was available.