David Brent

Israeli Health Care

I am continuing my incredibly popular series on comparing living in Israel to living in the USA. Previously I compared the cost of living in Israel to the cost of living in the USA. Now I am going to take a closer look at the health care systems of the two countries.

One of the benefits of Aliyah is that you get free health care from Israel for the first year. If you don’t work, you get free health care forever. If you do work, the amount you pay depends on how much money you make. I don’t know anybody who pays over $1000 a year for health insurance. I was paying about $20,000 a year for health insurance in the USA so this was by far the biggest benefit I received. I am skeptical whenever I get offered something for free – usually it is worth exactly what I am being asked to pay. Still I dropped my US health insurance. I HATE my US health care provider, those bastards raise my rates and lower my coverage year after year after year.

My image of Socialized Medicine
My image of Socialized Medicine, photo credit cc-by Burns Archive, Wikipedia

Upon my return to Israel on June 4th I immediately went to work to schedule my first doctor appointment in Israel. I needed to find a doctor so that I could get my cholesterol prescription refilled. I had enough pills to last almost a month and I was worried that I would run out before I could get to see a doctor. I was scared that it would take months to get an appointment with a doctor under socialized medicine. It turned out I could see a doctor in three days. 3 DAYS. In the USA, if I need to see a doctor in three days I have to go to the emergency room.

The first time you have to go in person to the clinic to make an appointment. After that, you can make an appointment by phone or through the internet website. If the office is closed, you can leave a message and they will actually call you back to make the appointment. I went to the clinic. There was no line. Just a secretary who immediately asked what I needed.  It took less than 2 minutes to register and book my appointment.

My appointment was at 9:30 am. I arrived at 9:00 am thinking I would have to fill out some forms, etc. I went to the same secretary and she told me to wait outside the doctor’s door. No forms to fill out. No copies of driver’s license and proof of insurance. The doctor was in his office with a patient. His 9:15 appointment had just arrived. At 9:15 the door opened and one patient left and the next went in. The 9:45 appointment came in and sat down next to me. At 9:30 the door opened, the doctor asked me my name, looked at his list, and said come in. No nurse took my blood pressure or my weight. No secretary took my insurance forms and paperwork and signed legal waivers. The doctor asked me for my health insurance card, swiped it on his computer, and that took care of the paperwork. Since it was my first time the doctor took my history, my blood pressure and pulse, listened to my lungs, felt my lymph nodes, all the usual fun stuff. It took 10 minutes. Then we discussed when I should get a blood test. He asked me what medicine I wanted and gave me my prescription. I was out of the office at 9:45 am. No co-payment required.

For healthy people the system works perfectly. It seems to work very well for sick people as well. My stepdaughter needed a kidney transplant due to a birth defect. She was given excellent care from the doctors at Rambam Hospital in Haifa. Everything covered by the state. Baruch Hashem she is doing very well.

The Israel health care system seems to have developed without the aid of lawyers. I promise you that health care professionals in Israel are underpaid, but the patients do not suffer. I guess that there are enough Jewish mothers out there who still want their sons to be doctors.

About the Author
David Brent is a NASA engineer with a master's and bachelor's from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology turned candy entrepreneur. He made aliya in the spring of 2013. David commutes between Israel, where his heart is, and Florida, where his business is.