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Healthcare in Israel

Health Insurance and the Healthcare System of Israel Explained

Healthcare for non-residents is an option in Israel either via private health insurance offered by one of the major insurance companies in the country, or by an employer if you are employed. Whether you have a valid visa or not, your employer is legally obligated to provide employees with health insurance as part of their benefits package. Otherwise, companies may be held liable for any costs incurred by a patient.

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The healthcare system and health insurance of Israel offer top-quality care to its members. In Israel, the differences between the public healthcare system and private health insurance is not the quality of care you will receive. The greatest difference is that you will simply gain access to more amenities with private insurance. For example, your hospital stays may include internet and television access and even better food, among other things.

In this section, we give you an Israeli healthcare system overview and how it works in this country. Healthcare in Israel is universal, and Israelis must enroll in the public scheme. We also cover to steps to finding a doctor or dentist, which is easy thanks to an online database of licensed doctors provided by the Ministry of Health.

If you plan on giving birth in this country, you will want to make sure you are covered with health insurance, whether it is your own or provided by your employer. Otherwise, as a non-resident with no valid visa or insurance, you can be charged up to 15,000 ILS (4,286 USD) for delivering a baby.

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How Healthcare Works in Israel

The healthcare system in Israel is universal, and every Israeli must participate in it. However, the public system does not cover everything.  Israelis can, therefore, opt for “supplementary insurance” from one of the four health funds in the country, or choose private insurance bought from an insurance company. This is to cover things like dental and optical plans, which are not covered under the public scheme.

Israel Healthcare Facts

  • All Israeli residents are entitled to healthcare as a fundamental right.
  • The healthcare system is based on the National Health Insurance Law of 1995.
  • Israelis can increase medical coverage by purchasing private health insurance or “supplementary insurance.”
  • Israel ranks high in life expectancy and overall health of its citizens, as well as boasting a low infant mortality rate.
  • Bloomberg’s Global Health Index (2019) ranked Israel the 10th healthiest country in the world out of 169.
  • The country has one of the most technologically advanced, highest quality, and efficient healthcare systems in the world.
  • Hospitals are modern with high-end medical technology, and employ highly educated and trained medical staff.
  • The Doctor’s Channel YouTube channel, approved by the Israeli Ministry of Health, is a not-for-profit channel that aims to make medical information more accessible to the public.

Does Israel Have Free Public Healthcare?

Yes, and every resident in Israel must be a part of one of the country’s four official health organizations: Clalit, Leumit, Maccabi, or Meuhedet. These are not-for-profit organizations. Legally they cannot deny any Israeli resident membership.

What Does the Public Healthcare Cover?

Each of the four official health organizations offers a uniform list of health services. They include

  • medical diagnosis and treatment (including for drug and alcohol abuse);
  • family and preventative medicine;
  • hospitalization (general, maternity, psychiatric, and chronic);
  • surgery (including elective surgery);
  • transplants;
  • medical equipment and appliances;
  • first aid and transport to medical facilities;
  • obstetrics and fertility treatment;
  • medications (including some for severe illnesses) approved by the National Health Basket (updated annually);
  • treatment of chronic diseases and paramedical services;
  • physio and occupational therapy;
  • mental healthcare;
  • IVF treatments for the first two children up to the age of 45 and abortions.

Israel’s Healthcare System Explained

How does healthcare work in Israel? No matter which of the four organizations a person chooses to join, they have the right to pick their doctor and specialists as long as they are within the network. Each of the organizations operates its own medical facilities. Members are allowed to switch between organizations, but only once per year and on specific dates.

If you are someone from abroad who relocated to Israel under the Law of Return and are not working, you are entitled to a year of health insurance (with some exceptions). In other cases, if you are a new immigrant and require health services, but have yet to register with one of the organizations, you can apply for coverage from the Public Ombudsman of the Ministry of Health.

Israel’s Healthcare Costs

Israel’s healthcare system is funded via taxes and government funding. Employees and self-employed contribute 3.1% of their income to fund the healthcare system (up to a maximum of 5,804 ILS (1,648 USD)). Employers deduct automatically from their employees’ salaries while the self-employed must arrange for payments to be made. Pensioners’ contributions are deducted from their pension, and anyone receiving unemployment benefits also pays dues. The government, on the other hand, spends 60% on their healthcare system, which is lower than the average of OECD countries (72%).

Israel’s Healthcare System: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Israel offers a universal, efficient, and high-quality healthcare system to its residents.
  • State-of-the-art and technologically advanced medical facilities are found in the country.
  • The Middle Eastern country boasts a high life expectancy and low infant mortality rate.
  • Top doctors and medical personnel work in Israel.
  • Taxpayers pay little for their healthcare system.
  • The Doctor’s Channel YouTube channel has more than 75 leading physicians and 17 hospitals who participate in the channel voluntarily. The videos are in Hebrew with English subtitles.
Cons
  • Israel does not spend as much on its healthcare as other OECD countries.
  • The Middle Eastern country suffers from chronic shortages of nurses, hospital beds, and scanning devices such as MRIs and CTs.
  • There are long wait times for hospital care and emergency room care.
  • The country is also facing the threat of a physician shortage in the foreseeable future due to retirement.
  • Private health expenditures in Israel are high in comparison to the OECD and US averages.
  • The mortality rate from breast cancer is high in Israel in comparison to Turkey and the OECD average.
  • Heart disease and cancer account for two-thirds of deaths.
  • There is a lack of donors for an organ transplant, and the budget set for patients to go abroad is not enough to accommodate the number of people waiting. Approximately 100 people die annually waiting for approval to go abroad for surgery.

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An Overview of Private Health Insurance

How does health insurance work? Israel has one of the highest private health insurance ownership rates in the world. Private health insurance premiums known as “supplementary insurance” are offered by each of the four funds Israelis are required to join (public system). Premiums are based on age, gender, and medical history. They are divided into specified age groups. Health insurance coverage can include things like a more extensive range of surgeries, therapies, medications, overseas travel insurance, private specialist consultations, non-invasive treatments, and dental and optical plans. Some other examples include:

  • for elective surgery, a participant can choose their surgeon, anesthetist, and hospital anywhere in the country or around the world;
  • for transplants, unlimited funding is provided to ensure a donor is found, and the procedure is done without the need for government approval.

Private hospitals and clinics offer the same quality of care as the public. The difference is private hospitals provide more amenities to their patients: television and internet access, private rooms designed like hotel rooms, restaurant-quality type food, and extra beds for overnight visitors.

Typically private health insurance policies do not cover anything for pre-existing medical conditions. In some cases, depending on the situation, they may be able to do so for additional premiums. While the health insurance premiums offered by the funds cannot deny membership to anyone seeking out supplementary insurance, private health insurance companies can. For example, they can deny someone with serious health problems.

There is a waiting period of 90 days before the start date of your coverage. It also serves as a trial period—if any conditions develop over this period, it will be considered pre-existing and will not be covered. C-sections also have a year-long waiting/trial period.

Do You Need Health Insurance in Israel?

No, private health insurance in Israel is optional. It depends entirely on what your needs and financial circumstances are. If you do wish to obtain additional supplementary insurance from your fund, they cannot deny anyone from getting it and they cannot discriminate against anyone with pre-existing conditions.

Types of Health Insurance Plans

There are both individual and group policy plans offered when it comes to health insurance plans. Long-term care insurance is also an option. There are usually three levels of private health insurance. The lowest level covers things like transplants (up to a certain amount) and surgeries abroad in an emergency. The next level covers a greater range of emergency services, not covered under the public system, and specific quality of life treatments. Finally, the highest level covers even greater emergencies, illnesses, and also pays you incentives (sometimes paying you even more).

Private health insurance options include the following:

  • Kupat Cholim Clalit / Mashlim Chul—provides Toshavim Chozrim, tourists, and students with health coverage and the same health benefits as Israeli citizens; covers pregnancy but not hospitalization or childbirth
  • Darconaim: Maccabi Health Fund— provides Toshavim Chozrim, tourists, and students with health coverage; includes pregnancy but not hospitalization or childbirth
  • Meuhedet plan for foreign residents—provides Toshavim Chozrim, tourists, and students with health coverage
  • Shiloach insurance—health coverage for tourists and students
  • American Israel Medi-Plan (AIM)—private medical program comprised of American doctors and medical staff

Some common medical policies include

  • ambulatory—covers preventative medicine, check-ups, CTs and MRIs;
  • alternative medicines—for naturalists interested in coverage;
  • personal doctor—with this policy you will have a personal case file and doctor;
  • expedited medicine—if you are ill, you will be able to go to a hospital and be contacted within a few days with your results;
  • lump sums in case of illness—if you get cancer, for example, you get a payment of 100,000 ILS (28,499 USD).

How to Get Health Insurance in Israel

All major insurance companies in Israel offer private health insurance policies. The major insurance companies in the country to contact for private health insurance plans are

  • Harel Insurance Investments and Finance Services;
  • Migdal Holdings;
  • The Phoenix;
  • Menora Mivtachim;
  • Clal Insurance Enterprises.

For a full directory of insurance companies, click here. You are advised to explore and speak with an insurance agent to discuss the most suitable plan that meets your needs.

How Much is Health Insurance?

Private healthcare insurance in Israel accounts for one-third of household healthcare spending. The average cost of health insurance in Israel varies depending on age and level of coverage. For a middle-income family, the average cost for a private health insurance plan could be 3,096 USD (approximately 10,783 ILS) annually. A family of five with two adults around the age of 35 can get a fully comprehensive program for less than 300 ILS (85 USD) a month. Cheap policies exist of only 50 ILS (14 USD) that cover transplants and medications solely.

Many people also share the costs of private health insurance with their employer. In fact, for foreign workers, employers are required to provide their employees with private insurance as part of their benefits package. For those who are self-employed, they can also opt for additional coverage via private health insurance plans if they so wish. A study showed that self-employed people in Israel demanded more private health services and supplemental health insurance than their wage-earning counterparts.

Private health insurance in the Middle Eastern country is considered relatively inexpensive, in comparison to other health insurance plans in other countries. Nevertheless, many health insurance companies offer a “catastrophic” policy for those who cannot afford to purchase a “full” plan. These types of programs should at least cover private surgery and transplants and other specialized treatments abroad, as well as medications not covered under the public health system.

How to Find a Doctor or Dentist

If you are wondering how to find a doctor and dentist in Israel, the Ministry of Health offers a full database of physicians, dentists, and other specialists to help jumpstart your search.

How to Find a Family Doctor

The Ministry of Health website offers an overview of licensed doctors, along with their areas of expertise. If you have signed up for one of the four funds, they will provide you with a list of approved doctors as well. Your local clinic, medical center, and hospital should also have information on all of their doctors. If you have health insurance, your provider’s clinics can assist you with finding a doctor. You can get recommendations for qualified doctors from other expats and colleagues.

If you do not speak Hebrew and/or are an English-speaking expat, the health funds and private insurers can direct you to nearby Anglophone doctors. If you do not have an insurance policy, British or American embassies can refer you to local doctors who speak English. InterNations GO!’s Settling-In Services can arrange the professional services of doctors who speak your language. Click here to request today.

How to Find Specialists

If you require more extensive care and need to see a specialist such as a cardiologist or podiatrist, your doctor can refer you to one. The Ministry of Health database also offers a list of various doctors such as therapists and other specialized practitioners.

How to Find a Dentist

The Ministry of Health offers a list of dental professionals and their specialization. You can also ask friends, other expats, and colleagues for recommendations. A quick online search should also be able to direct you to local professionals in your area.

The four funds also operate for-profit dentistry practices, offered at a discount for members who have signed up for supplementary insurance with them. If you need to go to one of these practices, the fund assigns you a dentist. You will have a different dentist each time you go for a visit.

Average Wait Time to See a Doctor in Israel

Clinics in Israel accept walk-ins but wait times will be long. If you make an appointment in advance, your wait time will be shorter. Do not expect to get an appointment on the same day. If you require medical attention but do not need to go to the emergency room at the hospital, an emergency medical clinic will treat you. If you plan on seeing a doctor who practices at a hospital, you should expect to wait a few weeks before your appointment.

The average wait time for non-emergency (elective) surgeries in Israel is 85 days. The following is the average time in each of the country’s districts:

  • Jerusalem—61 days
  • Tel Aviv—67 days
  • Haifa—72 days
  • Center—90 days
  • North—96 days
  • South—122 days

If patients have a private policy, they are encouraged to shorten public wait times in Israel by going through their private insurers.

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Giving Birth in Israel

Giving birth in Israel for non-residents entitles your child to specific allowances. The benefits of giving birth in Israel include health, social, and educational benefits for your child. Partially funded private health insurance also applies to babies born to non-residents. They are entitled to emergency care, routine well-visits, and immunizations. Insurance for the child may even be acquired via one of the four funds.

If you have health insurance and were insured nine months before becoming pregnant, the insurance must cover pregnancy monitoring services.

Giving Birth in Israel without Health Insurance

If you are in the country without a visa and proper medical insurance, you are not entitled to healthcare services in the country except at Family Health Clinics. Without health insurance, the hospital will still admit you for delivery; however, you will be charged the hospital bill afterward. The cost of having a baby in Israel, in this case, will be about 8,000 ILS (2,286 USD) for regular delivery, and up to 15,000 ILS (4,286 USD) for a C-section and a more extended hospital stay.

Having a Baby in Israel as a Foreigner

If you are a foreign worker in Israel and have given birth during the first five years and three months of working in the country, you can choose to leave Israel and return without your baby to continue your work period.  Alternatively, you can opt to stay in Israel with your baby until the end of 63 months, from the day you received your permission to live in Israel.

After giving birth and working 63 months, you are required to leave the country with the newborn after the first 14 weeks of maternity leave.

If you need to stop working due to reasons related to your pregnancy, you are eligible to receive a B/2 visa to stay in the country until you give birth.

If you do not have a working visa, yet you are still employed in the country, your employer is still obliged to arrange health insurance for you.

You are entitled to the National Insurance Institute’s benefits if you have worked in the country for at least six consecutive months immediately before the birth of your child. This is regardless of whether you are a holder of a valid visa or not. You are entitled to hospitalization and a maternity grant.

Giving birth in Israel for citizenship for your children does not exist. Newborns born in Israel do not automatically gain citizenship, nor can they be naturalized, as they are also not eligible for the permanent residency requirement. They can only obtain citizenship automatically if at least one of the parents is Israeli.

Giving Birth in Israel as a Permanent Resident

Unless you are Jewish, it is unlikely that you will give birth in Israel as a permanent resident. Permanent residency is not something that is easily issued to foreigners. Nevertheless, if you do have permanent residency status as an expat (for example, you are the holder of the new B/5 visa), your child will be granted a family visa. They will be allowed to stay in the country for as long as you are in Israel.

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Updated on: October 14, 2019
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