Under Israel’s national health insurance law, members of the health funds (kupat cholim) are allowed to change their health provider twice a year, at several specific periods of the year – and this year, the big “winner” in terms of switches was the Maccabee Health Fund, which had double the number of people joining as those leaving. Many of those new members came from the ranks of the Leumit Health Fund, which lost nearly twice as many members as it gained.
The figures issued by the Health Ministry show that movement between the other two funds – Clalit and Meuchedet – was minimal, with the former losing about 1,000 members more than it gained over the past year, and the latter gaining about that many over the number it lost during the period. 55,500 members left Clalit over the past 12 months, while 54,800 joined; those figures for Meuchedet were 39,300 and 40,000 respectively.
Membership in Maccabee, which many Israelis believe provides superior and more flexible service, zoomed this year, with the fund losing 25,500 members – but gaining 46,500. In Leumit, meanwhile, the situation was nearly the mirror image, with 44,100 leaving and 23,100 joining.
Leaving or joining a fund could reflect on the quality of service, but it is often due to reasons of convenience, as certain funds are more popular with certain population groups or in geographical locations because of the services available, or because of the presence of a clinic. Customers often move in order to take advantage of subtle differences in coverage; for example, one fund might offer a better deal on dental care for children, while another might cover more plastic surgery procedures.
In terms of geography, the Ministry’s report shows that the largest number of switchers were residents of towns in the Arab sector, with Arab towns and villages constituting eight of the top 10 locations where people switched funds. The other two were towns with large chareidi populations – Bnei Brak and Beit Shemesh.
The large losses at Leumit were not a reflection on the quality of care at the fund, officials in the Health Ministry said upon presenting the report. “Each fund has its advantages and disadvantages, and we must remember that while tens of thousands left Leumit, tens of thousands of others joined. Leumit members have no reason to fear for the stability of their fund, as it will continue to serve its members as usual.”
In a statement, Leumit management said that “the easing of restrictions on moving between funds has been taken advantage of by certain funds, which have set up sales operations to the tune of millions of shekels – all of it public money – in the guise of ‘service offices’ operated by private organizations, while failing to report the true use of the money. Employees of at least one fund are currently facing criminal charges for these activities.”