Poll: Israelis Unhappy With Health System

Majority say they wouldn’t be able to contend with bills of as little as 1,000 shekels a month.

Nir Kafri

A majority of Israelis are dissatisfied with the care they get from the country’s health maintenance organizations and from the government, saying they would struggle financially if they were faced with continuous medical bills of as little as 1,000 shekels (about $260) a month, a poll released Sunday shows.

The poll of 604 people aged 25 and over for Pharma Israel, an umbrella group of multinational drug companies, found that more than 70% said they were dissatisfied.

Asked whether what they get from the HMOs and the government was satisfactory and enabled the sick to live with dignity, 39.7% said they “didn’t agree so much” or “didn’t agree at all.” Only 5.5% said they were fully in agreement.

Close to a third of those polled said that if they were faced with monthly medical bills of 1,000 shekels they would have a “difficult or impossible time” financially. Some 28% said they had a family member of friends whose financial situation had deteriorated due to illness. Some 38% said they didn’t have faith in the medical system.

Health Minister Yaacov Litzman is leading a reform drive that will make more life-saving drugs, in particular cancer treatment, obtainable to everyone through the government’s official basket of subsidized drugs, rather than through supplementary insurance policies.

The health basket is being budgeted an extra 450 million shekels a year for the next three years. But Idit Chernovitz, director of Israel Pharma, said there was insufficient funding to supply all life-critical drugs to Israelis. In theory, 1.2 billion shekels is allocated annually to help 600,000 patients; in practice, only 50 drugs costing 320 million shekels are in the basket available to 300,000 sufferers.

“The survey illustrates the impossible situation for tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of patients in need of medical treatment that is not essential to the government health basket,” Chernovitz said.

The survey found that 84% of all Israelis back increasing the health basket’s budget, although only 9% support raising the health tax. Some 83% of those polled said they had supplementary insurance from their HMO and more than 40% said they had private medical insurance as well.