Private medical services to be disallowed in Israel state hospitals

Israel plans major reforms of the country’s healthcare system that will ban private healthcare in most state hospitals and seek to use profits from medical tourism to boost the healthcare of Israeli citizens. Health Minister Yael German presented the long-awaited German Committee to Strengthen the Public Health System report in late June that could implement the most important reform to the healthcare system for 25 years. Some changes will be immediate and some implemented gradually in the next few years.

The Treasury will inject NIS 1 billion into improvement in healthcare and additional manpower. All private medical services in hospitals owned by the government and Clalit Health Services will stop completely, except in a few selected Jerusalem medical centres. People will have a choice of being referred by their health fund to three hospitals rather than one, with the aim of shorter queues for treatment and operations and higher-quality care. New websites will increase public information and choice about healthcare.

Senior doctors in government and Clalit hospitals will be encouraged to become full timers instead of only working mornings and then working the afternoon at private clinics. So they will be paid more by the government in return for treating patients and performing surgery in public hospitals after their regular shifts end.

Profits from medical tourism will go toward improving the treatment and services for Israeli residents, but the committee that wrote and publicized the report have yet to explain how this would happen.

For the first time, health budgets will be linked to a demographic index, meaning they will get bigger as the population grows and ages. Israelis who want additional health insurance beyond the basic policy guaranteed to every resident by National Health Insurance will be able to pick and choose among layers of benefits from health funds supplementary health insurance.

Most people will not need private medical insurance, the report contends, as queues for procedures and consultations will be reduced.

The plans for the general hospital being built in Ashdod by Assuta Medical Centers, whose contract includes a significant percentage of medical procedures carried out as private medical services, will be amended so there will now be no private treatment there.

The committee that wrote the report includes representatives from the Health Ministry, the Finance Ministry, hospitals, the Israel Medical Association, universities and from the general public.

A new authority will be set up to run the government owned hospitals. This will give the state more control over hospitals that have been running independently and often ignoring requests or instructions from the health ministry.

Israelis will be able to compare online the various public and private health-insurance policies available, and choose the ones they want. A host of reforms aims to offer alternatives to hospital care and using health professionals more efficiently.

The aim is to strengthen healthcare in the community and connections with the hospitals, keep senior doctors in the hospitals and provide more public funding.

Assuta Medical Centers are building the Ashdod hospital, and have protested that the plans to retrospectively stop them offering private care is illegal and breaks the contract.

With senior doctors unable to work privately in the afternoons, this will have an impact on medical tourism.

What the eventual impact on medical tourism of the proposals is unclear. The report emphasizes that the health ministry wants to regulate medical tourism but exactly how it will do that, and whether it even has the power to regulate private clinics without new laws is debatable.