Regulation planned for medical tourism to Israel

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation has approved a bill to regulate medical tourism to Israel. A register will be compiled of medical tourism agents with set preconditions for those wishing to register.

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation has approved a bill to regulate medical tourism to Israel. It will now progress and become a government law.

Despite planned regulation, the government has yet to finalise a clear policy on medical tourism in Israel.

The bill from the Ministries of Health and Tourism is based on three basic principles that have been accepted in line with the belief that a state has, first and foremost, an ethical obligation to provide medical treatment to its own citizens. This also recognizes that the public health system has significant budgetary needs that are expected to grow in the future.

The following principles apply:

  • Caring for the Israeli patient: It will seek to prevent impairing the treatment given to the Israeli patient, and even, if possible, improve it.
  • Strengthening the public health system: The bill seeks to ensure that income generated by medical tourism will be directed towards investing in the public health system-instead of improving the bank balances of doctors.
  • Ensuring professional and ethical treatment for the medical tourist: Regulations will seek to ensure the tourist is given professional, ethical, and fair treatment, and help the industry’s long-term development.

To regulate the business of medical tourism agents, a register will be compiled of medical tourism agents with set preconditions for those wishing to register.  Anyone operating as a medical tourism agent will have to become registered and possess certain minimum qualifications.

Agents will have to:

  • Operate fairly towards both the patient and the medical institution where they are to be treated.
  • They must maintain medical confidentiality and privacy.
  • When reservations are made that must be in writing. The patient must sign he original price quote from the medical institution, to ensure that the medical tourist is given the complete information for informed consent before leaving home.
  • Agents must reveal any personal interest that the agent has in a particular medical institution.
  • Agents cannot make medical tourism agent services conditional on purchasing other services.
  • Medical tourists must wear an identifying tag when in hospital.
  • Agents can only contact doctors through the management.

There will be regulations on medical tourism for hospitals that they must obey:

  • Medical tourism must not harm the quality of medical treatment given to the Israeli patient.
  • Hospitals will be restricted on how many medical tourists they can host, based on data regarding the waiting time for carrying out various procedures in the hospitals and infrastructure availability.
  • Hospitals interested in medical tourism must establish a suitable infrastructure for transferring the data on local and medical tourism numbers to the Ministry of Health.
  • Income from medical tourism will be directed to the public health system and the Israeli patient. There will be measurers to increase the transparency of hospitals’ economic activity, emanating from medical tourism. So it will be possible to track each hospital’s revenues from such activity and how they are used.

Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman comments, “The new law will create order on medical treatment for tourists to Israel and contribute to the health system too. We want inbound medical tourism, while ensuring proper treatment for those who come for it. We also want to make sure that it will not come at the expense of Israelis and that the income from medical tourists will be invested for strengthening the public health system.”

In Israel medical tourism has become a profitable export industry that brings in foreign currency and supplies taxes, employment and a financial boost to medical institutions.

Until now, despite Israel’s prominent role as a destination for medical tourists, there has been no control or legislation, causing confusion in hospitals and among medical practitioners on what they may or may not do.

There are three central principles to the bill on its way to the Knesset: The state has the obligation to ensure that Israeli citizens have top priority to high-quality medical care; income from medical tourism be invested in public medicine; and foreigners are to receive high-quality and ethical medical care as part of developing the field long term.