Health Ministry: Cuts Will Cost Lives

The Health Ministry warned yesterday that treasury demands to reduce NIS 250 million from its budget "will lead to people's deaths."

Senior Health Ministry officials said, "if the Finance Ministry wants to reduce NIS 250 million from the health services basket, it should have the decency to present a list of cancer patients who will cease receiving treatment and be condemned to die."

Health Minister Dan Naveh said he will vote against the budget proposal in today's cabinet meeting.

According to Dr. Osnat Luxemburg, the Health Ministry's chief of medical technology and infrastructure, who serves as health services basket coordinator, the budget proposal will lead to a situation in which patients will no longer receive medicines and treatments they had up until now been receiving.

"There are drugs not included in the health basket for various reasons, including opposition from the pharmaceutical manufacturer or bureaucratic delays, that are nevertheless provided by the health maintenance organizations with special permission from the Health Ministry," Luxemburg said.

"There are many: drugs for pulmonary pressure, secondary growth of intestinal cancer, epilepsy in children and drugs to prevent blood clots in post-angioplasty patients. The HMOs will be forbidden from providing these drugs to their patients." She also noted that the Health Ministry authorizes the prescription of dozens of drugs not included in the health basket.

Luxemburg also discussed the treasury's demand to cut tens of millions of additional shekels by removal of drugs and treatments from the health basket within one week's time.

"It is not possible to do this within such a short period of time," she said.

"The entire health basket needs to be reevaluated. It is a lengthy process. If we take drugs and treatments out of the basket that are not being used, then we haven't actually saved any money.

"Only a cut in expensive drugs and regular treatments will allow the savings demanded by the treasury. This means that some of the treatments will no longer be granted in the basket and this will fall upon the shoulders of the public."

Luxemburg estimated the health basket to be worth some NIS 20 billion annually.