hospital - Hagai Frid - August 17 2011
Haifa’s Elisha Hospital. Photo by Hagai Frid
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The government committee charged with deciding which new drugs will be added next year to the so-called basket of medicines and health services receiving state subsidization held its first session yesterday. The committee is considering requests to add 520 drugs and 80 medical technologies to the health-care basket. The committee has NIS 300 million at its disposal in funding for the addition of medicines and technologies, but the total list under consideration, if all items were to be included, would cost the state NIS 3 billion.

Protesters representing patient organizations demonstrated outside the Health Ministry yesterday, where the committee was meeting, demanding that the state allocate additional funding for drugs. During the course of the panel's meeting yesterday, a number of demonstrators burst into the room before being removed by security personnel.

"We are calling on the committee to take on their public responsibility, not to give in, and not to begin their sessions with such a small budget allocation," said Shmuel Ben Yaacov, who is the coordinator of a coalition of organizations advocating on health-care rights. "Not only people with money should be able to get medicine."

For her part, MK Rachel Adatto (Kadima), who heads the health lobby in the Knesset and is herself a physician, said: "When half a million people demonstrate for social justice and for lowering the cost of living in the country, and when the government remains apathetic and leaves medicines and advanced medical innovations for use only by the rich, it's an indication that this government is only looking to satisfy to wealthiest 10 percent and the tycoons."

Adatto also took issue with two of the representatives of the public on the health basket panel, Eyal Gabai and Boaz Sofer. Until a month ago, Gabai was director-general of the Prime Minster's Office. Sofer was deputy director-general of the Tax Authority until about a year ago. The two, according to Adatto, were appointed to assure that the limited resources at the committee's disposal are allocated as the government sees fit.

According to a recent report, the Health Ministry has proposed that the panel allocate 10 percent of the funding available to it to reducing the deductibles patients pay for medicines already in the basket of subsidized medications. This follows a 33 percent reduction in the price of state-subsidized generic medicines that was instituted in August.