Court okays delay on health basket

Mazuz told the Health Ministry not to convene the committee as decision would be affected by the election campaign.

Although the Israel Medical Association and the Israel Health Consumers Association failed to persuade the High Court of Justice on Tuesday that Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz had erred by postponing until Election Day the decision on how to expand the basket of health services, the IMA nevertheless felt justified in its actions. "The only reason the petition was rejected was the commitment by the state that the release of the basket committee's decisions will be delayed by only seven days," said IMA chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar. Mazuz told the Health Ministry not to convene the committee, which was to decide which new drugs and medical devices would now be funded by the heath funds, nearly two weeks ago on the grounds that the decision would be affected by the election campaign MKs, the IMA, patients' groups and pharmaceutical companies denounced the ruling, arguing that it was based on a misconception that the objective committee's decision would be influenced by politics. The government has committed itself to voting on the committee's recommendations in its weekly meeting on Sunday, April 2. The High Court of Justice on Tuesday expressed its hope that the government would devote itself to the basket of health services as soon as possible after the basket committee reached its decision. Blachar said that the ruling made it possible for the IMA to return to the court if there was no immediate movement on the matter right after the elections. The Treasury has allocated NIS 200 million for expanding the basket, even though applications for the inclusion of new medical technologies is 10 times that figure and the allocation for 2005 was NIS 400 million. Blachar noted that the government did not consult with the basket committee - of which he is a member - before unilaterally deciding on the NIS 200 million figure. Blachar said he was encouraged by the state announcement that it did not totally reject the idea that the basket has to be expanded by more than NIS 200 million and stressed that such a decision would require an additional procedural process. Blachar criticized Mazuz for "not showing more sensitivity" to desperate patients who have to spend thousands of shekels a month to buy lifesaving drugs that are not paid for by the health funds.