Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Healthcare in Israel: Universal Access and World-Class Treatment

Nadene Goldfoot
So much talk is going on about the USA's healthcare issue that I was very impressed to find the following article about Israel's healthcare and how they have handled it. Of course, Israel is like one of USA's smallest states, so the size is a completely different issue.

When we made aliyah in 1980, we were immediately given choices of healthcare systems to join, and we chose the cheapest system, being new immigrants without jobs and having to retrain for 10 months for our profession. It was very different from our HMO system here, as most all the doctors in the clinic were Russians, or Hebrew speakers and didn't understand English. When I fell and broke my elbow and lower part of my arm, I had to be in the army hospital as it was the closest one to my accident. I then had 3 doctors operate for 3 hours to repair my bones. They told me they, being an army hospital, had had plenty of practice. One doctor was American but spoke to me in Hebrew until I overheard him speaking in English. He told me he just wanted me to practice Hebrew. In the ward with many other women I quickly learned the phrase, Coev lee, Coev lee--there is pain to me literally, or I'm in pain ! This was followed up with rehab to regain the use of my hand and arm. Others joined a private more expensive group. We had choices and we had treatment and Jews aren't shy or afraid of going to the doctor, either. I did not change the following but thought it so well said that I wanted all of it on my blog.

"The Israel Project takes no position on U.S. healthcare, as it is outside the mandate of our organization. However, for those covering this issue, Israel offers an important model.

When Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, a national health infrastructure was already in place. Traditional Zionist ethos emphasized society’s responsibility to provide for the welfare of the community in general, including in maintaining public health. The Jewish community prior to Israel’s statehood had already established a variety of services, such as mother and child care centers, which administered vaccines and instructed new mothers on proper childcare practices.

While modern Israel is widely recognized for its high quality of health care and abundant contributions to medical and biological sciences,  Israel’s health care system continues to embody its foundational consensus that society is responsible for health of citizens.Universal coverage became law in Israel in 1995; however, even before then, 96 percent of Israelis were insured.

Guaranteeing Equal Access: The Fundamentals

Today, 100 percent of Israelis enjoy full health care coverage. All Israeli citizens – rich and poor, Arabs and Jews, men and women - are required to join one of four health care funds (in Hebrew ‘kupot holim,’ literally ‘sick funds’) and may choose to purchase other forms of supplementary health care.

1. Clalit health fund (meaning ‘general’ in Hebrew), is Israel’s oldest and largest health insurance fund. Clalit was founded in 1911 and insures more than 54 percent of Israelis;
2. Maccabi health fund (named after the Israeli sports organization of the same name) was established in 1941 by immigrant German doctors and insures more than 23 percent of Israelis;
3. Meuhedet (‘United’ in Hebrew) health fund is the product of a 1974 merger of two smaller health funds that had existed from the 1930s. Meuchedet insures more than 12 percent of Israelis;
4. Leumit health fund (meaning ‘National’ in Hebrew), was founded in 1933 and insures slightly fewer than 10 percent of Israelis. [6]
(named after the Israeli sports organization of the same name) was established in 1941 by immigrant German doctors and insures more than 23 percent of Israelis;

Reference: Israel Project

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