The Knesset's Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday postponed until the fall discussion of a reform in the National Insurance Institute process for determining applicants’ level of disability and attending benefits.
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The reform would make it unnecessary for applicants to appear before an NII medical panel as is done at present. Instead, the idea is to allow a physician – not the individual’s family doctor, but a specialist in the patient’s disability – to determine the severity of the disability and the allowances that accrue.
But since the Knesset breaks at the end of July for its summer recess until October, discussion of and a vote on this proposal isn’t likely to happen for at least half a year.
The delay is due to the fact that the NII itself opposes the reform, as do professional staff in the justice and finance ministries. They claim the proposal is too general and would give rise to situations that would be rife with conflicts of interest.
For its part, however, the Social Affairs Ministry backs the reform, whose details are set out in a private member’s bill submitted by MK Miki Rosenthal of Zionist Union. Rosenthal plans to continue to work on promoting the legislation until it comes before the ministerial panel again.
“Before the law comes up again at the ministerial committee, we will reopen the discussions with the NII and with Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz, who is giving substantial backing to this important move,” says Rosenthal. “The system has needed a serious shake-up for many years. The faster we finish the work, the more injustice will be prevented.”
Over the years thousands of complaints have been submitted about the way the NII medical committees handle applicants. Many claim that those seeking benefits are treated with suspicion and disrespect, and are often awarded meager allowances with no explanation. What’s more, complainants say, the current system whereby NII physicians determine disability levels and benefits also embodies an inherent conflict of interest: It is the NII that pays the allowances and hires the doctors who determine them, so there is much pressure to keep the benefits low.