Public Health Care For the Poor, Private Care for the Rich

YERUSHALAYIM - Israel’s Health Minister Yael German decried the growing inequality in the country’s health-care system in a meeting with the Knesset State Control Committee on Wednesday, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The minister warned that public medicine must not be only for the poor, while people with money have access to superior private care.

German called upon the government, particularly the health and finance ministries, to strengthen the public health system and to increase government oversight of private health care.

Committee chairman MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) pointed to a conflict of interest, noted by a recent state comptroller report, among doctors who work in both the public and private systems. The comptroller found that doctors refer patients in public hospitals to their private clinics and hospitals to expedite treatment.

Prof. Shlomo Vinocur, chairman of the Israel Family Physician Society, said that family doctors find themselves playing the role of “partners for shifting activity to private medicine because of the long lines for consulting public medicine physicians in certain fields.”

Having listened to his colleagues’ complaints, he said there is “daily and growing pressure” on them today, compared to a few years ago. To help their patients who can’t wait, they have to inform them that they can pay for treatment at private clinics and hospitals rather than waiting, Vinocur said.

“Those who can’t afford care fall between the cracks,” he said.

Israel Medical Association head Dr. Leonid Eidelman lamented the fact that government spending on health has long been declining because of an attitude that health care is “an expense rather than an investment” in the quality of life and equity for all citizens.

German also pointed out that many people would benefit from being better informed of the care available to them in the public system. Many families are not aware that some of the services for which they pay supplementary health insurance premiums are already included in the public basket of health services.

Eighty percent of Israelis pay for supplementary health insurance provided by their public health funds.