Israel More Than Doubles Benefits to Children With Cancer

Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz announces increase from 2,100 shekels to 4,500 shekels a month.

Olivier Fitoussi

Children who are cancer patients or have other serious illnesses will now be entitled to more than double their sick benefits from the National Insurance Institute, following approval Tuesday by Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz of an increase from the current 2,100 shekels ($550) to 4,500 shekels.

The increase will apply to families in which one parent has had to stop working to be with the child throughout the day.

The announcement comes about two months after the parents of 550 children with cancer launched a campaign to have their benefits increased. MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) founded a Knesset caucus on the matter and initiated discussion in the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee.

Representatives of the National Insurance Institute voiced their support for the increased benefits during the meeting.

The NII council is to meet today to approve the increase, and the necessary regulations will then be approved by the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee.

The cost of the increase for the 550 eligible children will amount to 13 million shekels a year.

“The state abandoned and denigrated us in the most difficult time of our lives,” said Avidan Khalifa, who was instrumental in launching the campaign and whose 17-year-old son Ad Tzuriel was diagnosed with cancer six months ago. “I’m glad the decision-makers increased the benefits, but the protest will not be silenced until there is a basic change regarding the insurance companies and the Education Ministry.”

“The increase will allow families economic breathing room and make it easier for them to deal with the difficult situation,” Katz said.

Shmuli said: “I’m glad we were able to persuade the National Insurance Institute that children with cancer have the right to assistance from the state.”

The parents’ next step is to take on the insurance companies, which compensate only elderly cancer patients, or people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The Finance Ministry allows insurance companies not to compensate children with cancer, claiming that the supportive nursing care the benefit is intended to cover is not relevant to their situation. However, this is not the way the subject is presented to the public. Out of 6,500 claims for compensation in such cases, only 100 have been recognized.

Parents of children with cancer say they are also discriminated against at work. An employee who has worked less than a year in the same place and whose child contracts cancer is entitled by law to 90 days of absence taken from his or her own sick days or vacation days. But in practice parents report that they have been fired or threatened with dismissal although their employers are aware of their situation.