Sharp rise in additional, private health insurance costs

The cost of health insurance, both private and public, hits 2% mark of household income for the first time; health minister hopes government will take action to restrict it.

Former health minister Yael German (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former health minister Yael German
The cost per household for supplementary health insurance from one’s public health fund and for commercial (private) health insurance increased significantly – by 8.5 percent – in 2013, compared to only 4% in 2012.
This is a likely sign that public insurance coverage is not regarded by citizens as enough and that accessibility to care from the public health funds and hospitals is declining.
The data, from a Health Ministry report issued on Sunday, induced Health Minister Yael German – who is currently struggling in the cabinet against growing privatization in healthcare – to say: “Again, we see a sharp and unjustified rise in household expenses on healthcare. This expenditure is directly tied to the increase in operations in the private sector and feeds it.”
German continued that only integrative treatment by the authorities will be able to restrict the rise in operations in private medical institutions.
“Passing our proposed reform in health insurance will bring about a reduction in the cost-ofhealth index of Israeli families and with it the cost-of-living index,” she said.
The health minister said it was urgent to pass the Treasury’s Arrangements Bill, which would tax private medical care and limit the uncontrolled growth in the use of private medical insurance.
Dr. Leonid Eidelman, chairman of the Israel Medical Association, added his comments on German’s statement.
“There is a reason for the rise in household costs for health insurance that the health minister does not disclose, but we all know what it is – the lengthening in queues for surgery in the public hospitals. One can wait for months or even years for an [elective] operation, so patients go to private hospitals.”
Eidelman added that “the rate of hospital beds per population has dropped by 3% in the last five years. It is the lowest in the Western world. So what is the surprise that household costs for health insurance are rising? It seems that private medicine is growing and [so the government] finds a method for reducing it – [by] setting quotas for surgery in the private hospitals.
Then fewer patients will go to private hospitals, and the queue for surgery in the public hospitals will increase. And [thus] the suffering will lengthen. That is the ‘solution’ of the government,” Eidelman said with irony.
The IMA chairman demanded that instead, the Treasury must increase allocations for public medical institutions.
The official report said that the real cost of commercial and supplementary health insurance totaled NIS 800 million in 2013 – more than in 2012. In 2013, the average percentage of household income spent on dental care and medications was the same as in 1997. The share spent on eyeglasses and contact lenses even went down between 1997 and 2013 – from 0.3% to 0.4% of household income.