Palestinians who are married to Israeli permanent residents and live in Israel will no longer have to pay thousands of shekels for health insurance. Instead, they will get insurance on the same terms as Palestinians married to Israeli citizens.
Until now, Palestinians married to permanent residents had to pay the government 285 shekels ($89) a month for 27 months to become eligible for the national health insurance program. In contrast, Palestinians married to Israeli citizens had to pay that monthly fee for only six months.
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The National Health Insurance Law explicitly covers both citizens and permanent residents, but also authorizes the government to expand coverage to additional groups if it desires. This provision has been used to expand coverage to Palestinians married to Israeli citizens or permanent residents. But the conditions set for eligibility have prevented most Palestinians from obtaining coverage in practice.
The regulations making eligibility requirements equal were signed by Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz on Sunday with the consent of Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Social Affairs Minister Meir Cohen. The new rules also allow impoverished families to pay a lower fee of 140 shekels per month.
The Health Ministry estimates that around 7,000 Palestinians married to permanent residents, who previously couldn’t afford the eligibility payments, will now be able to obtain coverage.
“These regulations lower a major financial hurdle facing these people, because of which most of them were prevented from registering for health insurance and their basic human rights were violated,” Horowitz said. “This is an important step to expand access to health for everyone who lives in Israel, an important and just move to advance human rights and the vision of equality in health.”
In 2014, Israel began to allow spouses without citizenship or residency status to purchase health insurance and then receive treatment through the country's health maintenance organizations.
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The decision mainly applied to Palestinians who received approval to reside in Israel by an Interior Ministry committee handling family unification requests. In other cases, people with foreign citizenship who are in the initial stages of the citizenship process can also buy insurance. According to the 2014 decision, the maximum amount that a family can be charged is 570 shekels, even if it has more than two people who are insured.
Attorney Adi Lustigman from Physicians for Human Rights said in response: “We are pleased that the state has finally taken the right and necessary step and agreed to ensure access to health insurance for family reunification applicants.
"There is no longer a need for alternative arrangements. All those applicants are entitled to an identity card and health insurance without any discrimination compared to non-Palestinian spouses. It should also be clear that the debts accumulated by those who did not receive health services because of the draconian regulations will be erased.”