In the United States, where the average life expectancy is 79.3 years old (30th in international rankings), a bitter partisan debate over how to improve and operate our costly health care system has recently dominated headlines.
It would behoove our policymakers to look at other countries with successful and efficient health care programs to inform their own efforts to enact health care reform in the United States.
Israel, which has the world’s eighth-highest life expectancy at 82.5 years old, maintains a health care system that provides universal care to all (roughly 8 million) citizens. Boasting 47 hospitals and more than 2,000 primary care clinics, Israeli health care relies on four health maintenance organizations, each providing different payment and care plans to Israelis.
Similar to the objectives of the 2010 Affordable Care Act in the United States, Israel’s 1995 National Health Insurance Law requires all citizens to purchase health insurance from one of Israel’s four insurance providers. However, unlike the United States, Israel employs numerous mechanisms to ensure that all citizens can pay for the mandatory insurance coverage:
- Insurance premiums are based on income and an individual’s or family’s ability to pay.
- Employers pay health insurance taxes, which cover roughly 30 percent of Israel’s national health care expenses.
- Using Israeli-developed technology, administrative and operational expenses have been radically reduced by nationally digitizing medical records and improving the efficiency of medical equipment and procedures.
The 1995 National Health Insurance Law likewise requires that all insurance plans provide full coverage for a myriad of health costs, including all hospitalizations, treatment for drug abuse and alcoholism, ambulance rides, fertility treatments and obstetrics, and physical and occupational therapy.
While Israel may not be fully applicable as a model for health care in the American context, U.S. policymakers can certainly look to the Jewish state for answers. Likewise, Israel’s cutting-edge medical technology industry is providing the world with tools to provide higher standards of health care at lower costs.
For further reading, visit the Health Affairs Blog at bit.ly/2ptuOP5 or Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry at bit.ly/2ooBTAg. Eli Sperling is the Israel specialist and assistant program coordinator for the Center for Israel Education (www.israeled.org).