Israel's Healthcare System Ranked Fourth in World; U.S. Trails Behind

U.S. is near bottom of list of 48 countries ranked by Bloomberg for the quality of their healthcare systems.

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Israel's health system has been ranked fourth in the world in terms of efficiency, according to the business news and financial information company Bloomberg.

Among the 48 countries surveyed, the three that ranked higher than Israel were, in descending order, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. Israel's high ranking on the list was due largely to Israelis’ long average life span of 81.8 years and the country's quite moderate expenditure on health services as a share of total GDP at 7.8%. All countries surveyed had at least 5 million residents, a GDP per capita greater than $5000 and a life expectancy for residents of at least 70 years.

The Bloomberg rankings were scored based on three criteria, namely life expectancy (60% of final score), per capita expenditure on health services relative to GDP (30% of final score) and per capita expenditure on health services in absolute terms (10% of final score).

Along with Israel, the top 10 countries on the list were largely characterized by state-funded universal health care systems, like Singapore, Switzerland and Australia. Near the very bottom of the list at 46 was the United States, which only mandated universal healthcare coverage under the Obama administration and still relies largely on employer and individual funded healthcare.

Bloomberg was not the first ranking to give very high scores to Israel's health system. Last March, Israel was ranked fifth out of 36 member countries in the OECD's Good Living Index. In addition, in 2012 an OECD delegation visited Israel and praised the local health maintenance organizations for their exceptional efficiency in diagnosing and treating those with chronic illnesses and preventing repeated hospitalizations of these patients. However, local hospitals received low marks from the delegation, which said in its report they must increase their efforts to improve the quality and monitoring of the treatment they provide.

The Israeli healthcare system is characterized by its economic efficiency that stems, among other reasons, from the small number of large HMOs, government control over prices and strict regulation. Citizens in Israel must have at least basic insurance coverage at one of the country's four HMOs, with 80% of the population belonging to the two largest.

Israelis must have at least basic insurance coverage at one of the country's four HMOs. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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