Sunday 25 October 2009

Health Care Israeli Style

The subject of health care seems to be in focus at the current time for a number of reasons. The Obama administration is spending a huge amount of time and effort trying to reform the US healthcare system to provide more affordable healthcare to a broader spectrum of people. This, added to the H1N1 pandemic that is sweeping across the world, and the significant burden that has been placed upon healthcare systems around the world has brought the issue of healthcare to the attention of many of us.

I had experience of the South African health care system and the British system before coming to live in Israel. Each system is entirely different from the others. The South African system works well for those who have medical insurance. The quality of treatment available to those with the right insurance is generally very good. Private doctors and hospitals and medication are used by those with the right insurance. The problem is that the premiums to cover the medical insurance policies are not within the reach of the average citizen. As such, first world medical care is available to the privileged classes whilst many others are forced to endure much lower quality of medical care, or none at all.

The National Health system in England is held up in many countries in the world as an ideal example of universal health care. This system provides a minimum level of health care for all citizens of the UK. The problem with this system is that it is overburdened and waiting times can be very long for simple appointments, procedures or operations. As a result, those who are able to afford private health care or who have insurance to cover it, prefer to get private treatment. This creates a type of two-tier system of health care, once again favouring the wealthy and leaving the poorer classes with inferior care.

The Israeli system is different, and quite an interesting way of providing health care. There are four health maintenance organisations (HMOs) in Israel. Every citizen of Israel should be a member of one of the HMOs. They are private organisations for the provision of health care to Israel's citizens. Employees have a health tax deducted from their salaries according to their earnings. The tax deducted is handed over to the employee's chosen HMO. This provides a basic level of health care of the employee and members of his family. Members of the HMO can also upgrade their membership to packages that give greater benefits to the members such as access to better specialists and better quality hospitals. Those who are unemployed have their health premiums paid by the National Insurance Institute. New immigrants are provided with free health care for a period of six months until they have managed to establish themselves and arrange their premium payments. Health cover is extended equally to all Israeli citizens, Arabs and Jews alike. All of this means that those who have even the most basic health package still have access to some of the best medical care available with reasonable waiting times. In addition, with the significant research and development that is undertaken in medicine in Israel, Israeli patients can be assured of the most up-to-date technology and medical treatment. It was recently published that Israeli patients have the highest rate of cancer survival in the world.

As a Diabetic, I am forced to make maximum use of the medical system of the country in which I live. I observed that my Diabetes was accepted by my HMO when I applied to them, and not excluded as a pre-existing condition. As such, I have fully coverage of all treatments relating to my Diabetes. The treatment that I receive in Israel is not only high quality, intensive and easily available to me at all times, my Diabetes is treated using the latest technology and in a high quality way.

The life expectancy for people living in my home town is over 80 years old for both men and women. This is the case for a country that is constantly at war and losing young men and women in wars and terror attacks. Most of Israel's taxes have had to be spent on the military to guarantee her continued existence, which has left much less funding available for medical and other expenditure. This is surely a remarkable achievement, especially for a country which has been in existence for barely 60 years. President Obama could do a lot worse than establish a similar system in the US.

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