Medical Tourism on Way to Regulation

YERUSHALAYIM -

Medical tourism, which has been a growing source of revenue for Israel’s cash-strapped health system, will likely be coming under a new regulatory regime, The Jerusalem Post reports.

“In the coming years,” said Health Minister Yael German, “we won’t get [from Finance] the NIS 8 billion we need … so we need to consider additional sources of funds while carefully preserving equity and justice.”

Sheba Medical Center director-general Zev Rotstein said that medical tourism “raises the level of Israel medicine,” thus benefiting Israelis, and not only the foreign patients.

“The treatment is provided after the doctors’ regular working hours and not at the expense of Israelis,” Rotstein explained. “The share of foreigners compared to Israelis in my hospital is only 15 percent, and the income is only 6.36% of Sheba’s total income. But this money is important because I can’t get it from the government.”

The call for regulation was prompted by recent allegations that some doctors were taking fees illegally. Proponents argue that clear guidelines are needed so that doctors will know what is permitted and what is not.

Health Ministry director-general Roni Gamzu described the problem of unregulated growth: “The pay for a surgeon who treats a tourist is three or four times what he gets for operating on an Israeli patient,” Gamzu said. “Already today, I will rush instructions to hospitals that they must not pay those who operate on foreign tourists any more than they get for operating on locals.”

Likud MK Haim Katz, chairman of the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee, promised on Monday that legislation will be forthcoming to eliminate the confusion that currently exists as to acceptable practice.