A Guide to Navigating the Health Care System

Israel has one of the best health care systems in the world. However, for new immigrants, navigating the system can be very intimidating. Things may have worked much differently in the home country, which can make one easily feel lost. However, once learning the ropes it can become as easy as pie.

Choose a Provider

Your first step is to choose a provider. The four providers are Maccabi, Meuhedet, Clallit, and Leumit. Choosing your provider is based on different factors such as availability in your area and the services available. Once you choose your provider, you will only be able to use doctors with that provider, unless you choose to go to a private doctor. Bear in mind that going to a private doctor is a costly out of pocket expense. If in the future you ever need to switch providers, this is a relatively easy process.

What Level of Services do You Need?

Health care providers offer different levels of membership. The higher the price, the more services you have access to. Which level you chose depends on your own personal needs.

Choosing a General Doctor

Perhaps this goes without saying, but it’s important to find the right doctor. Ask people in your area who use your same provider if they have any recommendations. There are many English speaking doctors available. Your general doctor can be a good resource if you need a specialist or for addition advice to using the system. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions, the doctors are there to help you. If they are not open to questions, find someone who is.

Finding a specialist

To find out which specialists are available in your area, you can do a search on the website or mobile app of your provider. For those who prefer to do it the old fashion way, you can also call to speak to an operator of your provider. English speaking operators are available. Your general doctor can refer you to someone. Note that there is a shortage of specialists in Israel, and it is not unusual to have to wait two or three months for an appointment. In order to get an appointment sooner, it is recommended to call clinic where the doctor works once a week and inquire if there are any cancellations. You can also put your name on a waiting list.

Taking special tests

Sometimes your doctor will ask you to take a special test, such as an x-ray. This often takes place at a center not directed affiliated with your provider (e.g. Terem). They would require you to bring in a referral form (called ‘hafnayah’ in Hebrew). This will usually cost you extra, but your provider will subsidize the cost.  In order to do this, you would need to bring a form to a place called a ‘heet-chayivut’ (which literally translates to commitment).

This article should give you a good starting point. It is also helpful to have a friend who is more familiar who can help you. In addition, Nefesh B’Nefesh also offers to assist olim with using the health care system. People often talk about the financial sacrifices made with Aliyah. However, for some people this is an example of one the financial benefits of Aliyah. If you would like to offer addition advice, by all means submit a comment below.

About the Author
Writer with professional experience in various fields. Originally from Maryland, now lives with his family in Beit Shemesh.