Israel will pay for abortions for women aged 20 to 33 regardless of circumstance starting next year, health officials said Monday, adding that they hope to make eligibilty for state funding universal in the future.
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Until now, subsidized abortions for women of all ages were available in medical emergencies or in case of rape and sexual abuse. Women under the age of 20 or over 40 were also eligible for abortion funding even when the reason was personal.
Despite the new funding, which was recently approved as part of Israel’s state-subsidized “health basket” for 2014, women will still have to appear before a state committee before terminating a pregnancy.
The new rule opens it up for 6,300 more women to have a state-funded abortion next year, at a cost of about 16 million shekels ($4.6 million). The cost of all state-subsidized abortions is estimated at 24 million shekels a year.
Monday’s news was announced by the committee that determines which medicines and medical technologies will be added to the 2014 health basket. The health-basket committee is headed by the director of Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Prof. Jonathan Halevy.
“It was brought to our attention that there is a large group of women between 20 and 40 who for various reasons – financial or reasons of secrecy – do not terminate pregnancies,” Halevy told a press conference. “In the current basket we’ve approved funding for pregnancy termination for women in the 20-to-33 age group, with the intention of completing the process ... and raising the age to 40.”
The committee is keeping contraceptives outside the health basket, but Halevy said this was only due to a lack of funds. “The private expense for birth control pills is low, but when we’re talking about financing for the entire population, that’s a hefty sum,” he said.
The committee’s original list came in 2.5 million shekels short of the 300-million-shekel budget for additions, so the panel tried to add a drug for children’s joint diseases. But that medicine would only apply to around 10 children, and attempts to get the manufacturer to lower the price failed. Instead, the committee expanded its original decision on abortion funding; it increased the age for funding on demand to 33 from 30.
The committee approved 83 new drugs and medical technologies for 2014, items expected to serve some 375,000 Israelis at a total additional cost of 300 million shekels, on top of the 7.8-billion-shekel budget for medicines and technologies already in the health basket. The basket now goes to the Health Ministry for approval; it also needs cabinet approval.
Cancer drugs make up 41 percent of the new additons, some 121 million shekels. In recent years this figure was 35 percent to 38 percent. Other treatments added include vaccinations, tests and support technologies.
For 2013 the committee added 88 new drugs that affected some 300,000 Israelis – an attempt to include as many patients as possible. The committee tried to keep to this philosophy this year; it began its deliberations in early October and whittled its list down from 650 drugs and technologies.
Among new items approved for 2014 are the drugs Stribild and Tivicay for HIV carriers, and six new drugs for asthma and other lung diseases. The budget has also been increased for cystic-fibrosis patients. Five drugs were approved for schizophrenia and the use of current drugs has been expanded.
Patients with severe Parkinson’s disease will be disappointed as the drug Duodopa, considered highly effective, was not added to the list. Its annual cost is estimated at 62 million shekels. The committee declined to commit 21 percent of the additional funding to a single drug. Nine drugs for diabetes were also all left off the list. The committee also did not add hormonal birth control or IUDs to the basket.
All committee decisions are unanimous. Unlike previous years, the panel finished its work in the early evening and did not stay up until the middle of the night or well into the following morning. The add-on list had been whittled down to 380 million shekels by midday Monday.