More Reforms Needed on Nursing Home Care, Rabbi Litzman Says

Deputy Health Minister, Yaakov Litzman, speaks during a press conference announcing the new mental health reform presented by the Health Ministry, in Jerusalem, in July 1, 2015. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** øàù äîîùìä áéðéîéï ðúðéäå îñéáú òéúåðàéí îùøã äáøéàåú øôåøîä áøéàåú äðôù ñâï ùø äáøéàåú éò÷á ìéöîï
Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman speaks during a press conference in the Health Ministry, in 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman is urging the government to adopt further changes to its policy on providing assistance for patients who require aides at home or assistance available only at a nursing home. At a special Knesset session, the minister discussed new reforms that went into effect July 1st, and said that more was necessary.

“The plan we have drawn up will improve service and change the conditions for Israel’s elderly,” said Minister Rabbi Litzman. “Today the State collects money from families who need full-time care for loved ones. To me this is a crime.”

On July 1, new regulations went into effect that expanded the scope and coverage of nursing home and home care insurance policies. Although much is covered under Israel’s universal health insurance program, nursing home care is not, and as a result many families are forced to spend large sums of money acquiring care for elderly family members. According to state figures, 30 percent of families currently pay for nursing home care completely out of pocket.

New reforms will completely fund care for large numbers of Israelis. To pay for the program, the health care tax will rise 0.5 percent, with individuals earning NIS 10,000 ($2,600) a month paying about NIS 40 ($11) more in taxes.

However, the measure – which Minister Rabbi Litzman himself authored when he was Deputy Health Minister several years ago – does not go far enough, as there is an income cap for eligibility, and at the Knesset session he said he wanted to see universal nursing-home care for all who need it. According to Minister Rabbi Litzman, the second round of reforms are built into the coalition agreement, and “I will not hesitate to force a coalition crisis over this issue if these further reforms are not adopted,” he said.

“The reform is designed to widen the nursing home care for all elderly at all income levels, to reduce bureaucracy, and to increase the quality of care,” he said. “The objective is to create a single care procedure for everyone.”

There are some 200,000 elderly Israelis who need advanced care, whether in nursing homes or with aides at home. Over the coming years, the numbers of Israelis aged 75 and up will increase by 20,000 to 30,000 a year, according to the OECD.