Israel has an exemplary and successful health care system with 46 hospitals, 2,000 community oriented primary care clinics, three rehabilitation hospitals, and several professional schools of medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy. Every citizen, Jew, Christian, and Arab is entitled to basic health care as a fundamental right. Dr.Rafi Cayam, Director of Medicine for the Jerusalem District states that four key elements make their system work so well: Universal coverage, cradle-to-grave coverage, basic and catastrophic care, and full access to medication. The Patient’s Rights Law mandates universal and comprehensive health care and requires every resident of Israel to register with one of Israel’s four health care organizations. It is illegal for health funds to bar applicants on any grounds.
These group insurance funds are capitated according to number of members; see this for more detailed information. Statistics released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show in 2009 life expectancy in Israel is 81, putting Israel in the top 14 countries in the world, with Japan at the highest, 83 years. Compared to Europe or the U.S. Israel ranked higher than average for newborn and up to 5 year child mortality rate. There are problems to be sure, in terms of cost increases, but this combination of private and Government supported health care is a good example of a system that works considerably better than most countries-ours in particular. Records are almost completely computerized, with over 85% of doctors using electronic medical records, compared to only 15% in the U.S.
We have a lot to learn from Israel and many countries in the EU, particularly The Netherlands, France, and Germany. The question remains whether we will ever reach their level of acceptance in supporting the idea that health care is a fundamental right of all citizens in an advanced democratic society.
Much currently proposed legislation, including limiting universal coverage and maintaining for-profit private insurers by eliminating a “public option” do not, in my opinion, inspire hope that we will significantly “reform” the current system.