The Knesset has passed on its first reading a bill to regulate medical tourism, with measures to ensure that foreigners who come to Israel and pay privately for medical care get the care they need – but not at the expense of Israelis. According to Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, “the law will ensure order in the area of medical tourism and contribute to both medical care and enhancing the experience of visitors.”
Some 30,000 people come annually to Israel specifically for medical treatment – mostly from Russia and Ukraine – many of them seeing treatment in Israel as their last hope. As a result, they are prepared to pay large amounts of money for the care that they need – and that, according to experts, sometimes comes at the expense of Israelis who need the same care but cannot compete with the sums offered by the tourists.
The new law will require that the agents who match medical tourists with practitioners register and indicate which medical practitioner they have sent a tourist to. Medical authorities will then be able to examine the doctors and other practitioners’ schedules, in order to ensure that the interests of Israeli patients are not harmed. In the case of a conflict, the authorities will be able to reassign the foreign patient to another practitioner who can help them in a manner that will not harm the care of Israelis.
Medical tourism is a big business around the world, and Israel wholeheartedly encourages the phenomenon; each medical tourist, aside from the amount they spend on medical care, brings in an additional NIS 7,500 in indirect income to the state. The law, besides encouraging fair treatment, said Minister Rabbi Litzman, will “ensure that the income that medical tourism brings in will be used to enhance the health system for everyone.”