In 1994, Israel passed the National Health Insurance Law which requires all residents to have healthcare. Healthcare is provided by the state through the National Insurance Institute. Residents pay 5% of their income to the state for basic healthcare. However, depending on the healthcare fund you choose, you might have to pay extra some additional fees for premium coverage.
The National Insurance Institute offers four funds which provide different coverage: Clalit, Maccabi, Meuhedet and Leumit. These funds run their own hospitals, clinics and pharmacies throughout Israel. They function like health maintenance organizations.
Registering for a specific fund means that your fund's hospitals and clinics will take care of your health costs. You have access to your fund's services and specialists at no cost.
However, you cannot go to another fund's healthcare centres (unless you want to pay their fees). The only exception are emergencies: Israeli laws requires hospitals to accept all emergency patients, irrespective of their health insurance.
Health funds and coverage
Clalit is the largest and most comprehensive health fund. Almost half the Israeli population chooses Clalit as its fund.
All of Calit's physicians are employed by the state, and Clalit specifies the doctors, specialists and pharmacies you can go to (so you cannot choose the doctor your prefer). Under Clalit's regulation, doctors have authority regarding your health and which health tests you must take.
Clalit has long lines to see doctors, and sometimes you must reschedule an appointment because your doctors are busy. Despite these inconveniences, the healthcare under Clalit is exceptional.
Maccabi Health Services offers care by private doctors. This means you can choose which Maccabi doctors to go to. You and the doctor decide which health tests you take, and you make final decisions regarding your health. You can also get an appointment with a Maccabi doctor more easily.
Meuhedet and Leumit are the two more general health funds. These two funds offer the least coverage, but they are also the cheapest funds as the require little or no additional healthcare premium on top of the basic healthcare fee.
Basic healthcare coverage
Basic coverage provided by all four health funds includes:
- disease diagnosis and treatment
- preventive medicine
- general surgery
- medications (although the fund determines which medications you have access to)
- treatment of chronic diseases
- treatment of alcoholism and drug abuse
- obstetrics and fertility treatment
In addition to the standard coverage of the health funds, you may apply for supplemental insurance. Each fund offers unique supplemental insurance packages. Supplemental insurance includes things like vaccinations, care after surgery and transplants.
Private health insurance in Israel
Private insurance is also an option. Private insurance is different than supplemental insurance because you purchase policies from private insurers. If you have private insurance, the government will not cover any of your healthcare costs. Most private insurance companies offer full healthcare coverage.
Paying for health insurance
Your employer deducts some of your income and pays it to your healthcare trust. Within 30 days of hire, your employer should ask which service you prefer. If you are self-employed, you make the payments to the National Insurance Institute yourself.
If you are not satisfied with your trust, you have the option to change your health fund once every six months. If you choose to move among healthcare funds, make sure to have copies of your medical records. Transferring them is difficult and disorderly, and documents have a tendency to get lost.
Even though your employer pays the trust, you own your policy. Your employer does not mediate payments for you. You deal with the National Insurance Institute directly.
If you get sick or injured, you will receive payments from the National Insurance Institute in your bank account. They reimburse up to 75% of the wages you lose while sick or injured.