Eretz Yisrael Time

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006
While unfortunately my blog tends towards cynicism and negativity (and I’m not happy about that at all), every now and then something opens your eyes to the good things in Israel.

Those of us living in Israel sometimes don’t appreciate the positive side of organizations like Bituach Leumi and even the Kupot when compared to say Social Security, Medicare and the HMOs in America. We’re annoyed that we pay so much into the system, yet the reality is that we potentially can get a lot more out of it in return if G/d forbid we needed to.

True, medical care isn’t on the technical level of say the best hospitals in NY or Boston, but if you are sick in Israel, in most cases the government will cover your medical expenses from A to Y (not necessarily Z). And if you are incapable of working, disability is a given for all citizens, as is retraining if applicable. And for the new mother and mother-to-be the attention you get is incredible (and mostly free) if you are willing to wait your turn in line.

Sometimes you have to fight for it, but usually you get your help, and sometimes we take for granted what Israel gives back to us compared to other countries.

In America, one can ever so easily fall between the categories, and that’s it. You’re truly stuck.

You can find yourself without money, without proper health care, without anything.

The HMOs in America are fundamentally evil in the way they try to avoid their obligations, and while dealing with the Kupot in Israel can be infuriating, and your often limited choice of doctors can be annoying (though some Kupot allow you to go outside for special cases) and when you can get an appointment, at least you know that it is usually just a matter of swapping your membership card and payment is guaranteed. Not something you can take for granted in the US at all.

Yes, Bituach Leumi and the Kupot has a lot of things that need serious fixing, but you know what, compared to other first world countries, we don’t always realize how good we have it.

Please have in mind for the next few weeks a Refuah Shleimah for: Naftali ben Tzila.


Fern @ Life on the Balcony said...

Come on...why does complimenting something Israeli always mean criticizing something American? When was the last time you even had to deal with the American medical system?

I have an HMO that I pay for (well, actually, my husband pays for it, but same thing). I have never had a problem. I pay 20 bux to see a doctor I love whenever I want for whatever reasons I want. I pay 10 bux for perscriptions. When/if I get pregnant, my HMO is going to cover 90% of my medical bills, no matter what complications I or the baby have. If I were to have the need to go to the emergency room, I'd pay 100 dollars, no matter how expensive the care I received cost. Those fees that I've mentioned are nothing to the average American. Getting the best medical care in the world costs less than what most Americans make working at their job in one hour.

Yes, there are problems with private health insurance. Yes, there are a occasional stories of HMOs doing horrible things. But the overwhelming vast majority of Americans who have an HMO never have a problem with it. NEVER.

There is absolutely no reason to put down something American just to show how great Israel is. The way Israel does things can be good in it's own right without comparing them to anywhere else in the world. If the health care system in Israel works pretty well, then it works pretty well, regardless of what is going on in with American health care. Constantly putting down America to prop up Israel just makes Israel look like it has an iferiority complex. From what I can tell about Israeli ingenuity, innovation, entrepreneurship, generosity, charity, etc Israel has no need for an inferiority complex.

JoeSettler said...

Fern: Please don't in any way take this the wrong way, BE"H you should never have serious problems and then find out the US HMOs and government social solutions aren't as good (understatement) as you're imagining they are.

(Completely aside, but I don't recall ever criticizing the US to compliment Israel.)

Anonymous said...


Social Security in the States is a wonderful thing.

People receive a check in the mail (not mega money, but nevertheless some money) every month when they get old, after many years of working.

Its a pity we don't have that here.


Rafi G. said...

on that note - I never understood why people go collecting (in the US or Israel) for medical care of someone sick (in Israel). Dont the kupot and bituach leumi cover medical care? I ahve never gotten a good answer to that question

JoeSettler said...

Assaf: !!!???

But Israel does pay out a "social security" check every month to senior citizens (unless they are still working, and then they get partial payment). Olim who made Aliya after age 60 normally won't get it, because the system assumes they get from their old country. They have a variety of graduated categories too: Old, Infirm.

Here's a link to how the base amount is calculated. Here are the additional sums they pay for those without money.

And if you have a special situation, you start apply for additional funds and other B"L care programs.

As I said it's not perfect, and I personally wouldn't want to live on just that, but it's still pretty good.

JoeSettler said...


There are unfortunately some uncommon illnesses and unusual medications that aren't fully included in the health basket (you sometimes see those sufferers protesting in front of the Knesset).

Also, the Kupot generally do not fully fund expensive operations overseas, and sometimes overseas is where you need/want to go.

So private money needs to be raised.

And sometimes you might prefer/need a specific private doctor not on your plan when you didn't choose a Kupah plan with open access to outside specialists.

As I said, it's not perfect, but a lot depends on your Kupah and which plan you signed up with.

In the US however, a lot of specialist, for instance, simply won't accept Medicare alone anymore, and demand additional (expensive) fees per visit, and the US HMOs add deductables left and right if they consider you a problem case, not to mention constantly seeking excuses not to pay for a specific doctor/treatment if they think they can get away with it (and they can).

And the hospitals in the US have a shortage of beds, and they try to kick you out as fast as they can, even if you aren't yet healed.

You will usually get technically better doctors in the US, but if (C'vS) you get chronically ill and need long-term treatment, I believe it's better to get sick in Israel.

(Now, I think if someone opened a chain of private MRI/CAT scan offices in Israel, they would do very well).

Ben Bayit said...

It's the cost of insurance that's prohibitive in the USA. Not the cost of the medical services.

JoeSettler said...

Ben Bayit: The insurance is incredibly high, and a significant number of the plans are anything but comprehensive in what they will cover with or without their deductibles.

The fees the doctors take is pretty high too.

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