Israel to Bar Higher Fees for Medical Tourists

Health Ministry chief, in Knesset, calls for checks to financial incentives that favor foreigners over Israeli patients.

The Health Ministry said Monday it would issue a directive later in the day barring hospitals from paying physicians more for treating foreign “medical tourists” than Israeli patients and barring doctors from charging foreign patients more than Israelis.

The state has not put guidelines in place to regulate Israel’s growing medical tourism industry in Israel.

“Medical tourism has grown significantly in recent years and I see this growth as something problematic also being pushed by business interests,” Health Ministry Director General Dr. Ronni Gamzu said Monday at a session of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee.

He said the country’s health system supported the growth of medical tourism because it provided an additional revenue stream for hospitals and doctors, but that “stringent regulation” was needed.

The committee session was convened after a segment on Israel Channel 2’s current affairs program “Uvda” exposed physicians at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital demanding under-the-table payments for care provided to medical tourists.

“I cannot rule out that what we saw on Uvda does not exist in other places as well,” Gamzu told the committee. “When surgeons makes three to four times more for operating on a tourist than for operating on an Israeli citizen, what does that do to the frequency with which Israelis are operated on in the afternoon? What does that do to the [health] system?”

Nir Kafri