New Proposal: Keep ‘Health Basket’ Candidates Out of the Media

YERUSHALAYIM -
Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Each year, the Health Ministry considers inclusion of new medicines and treatments in the “basket” of services offered under Israel’s National Health Law – with an army of lobbyists, public-relations firms, and industry groups pressuring members of the Ministry committee who make that decision to choose their preferred medication or treatment.

With such pressure, according to Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, it is difficult, if not impossible, for members of the committee to make the best decision. His solution: keeping all the candidates being considered for inclusion under wraps, and not making any announcements until the decision is actually made. Currently, the candidates for inclusion are published in advance of the decision, which creates the situation in which undue pressure is exerted on committee members.

Speaking to a health conference in Tel Aviv last week, Rabbi Minister Litzman said that “transparency in the work of the committee is very important, but I would like to see a situation in which the media is prevented from writing about or discussing the potential candidates.” The minister said he would make an official request on the matter with the heads of the large print and electronic media in Israel, and seek their voluntary cooperation.

According to Yisrael Hayom, life for the members of the committee can be very difficult. Besides the pressure from professional groups, individuals who suffer from a specific disease, along with supporters and family members, often show up at the homes of committee members and demand that they choose “their” treatment or medication. Committee members are often inundated with letters and email cajoling, begging or threatening them to choose specific solutions; and some in the past have been subject to defamation campaigns, in which they found their faces on posters plastered around their neighborhoods accusing them of “murder” for failing to approve a specific solution.