Israel has many beautiful things: a gorgeous seashore, delicious Middle Eastern food, a sense of empowerment for the Jewish people, a multicultural society, and much more. It also has its share of challenges- low salaries (relative to the U.S.), endless bureaucracy, regional conflict, and so much more.
I’d like to focus right now, though, on one of the best aspects of living in Israel: socialized healthcare. In Israel, everyone, by law, has health insurance. It is provided through one of several government-approved plans. Approximately 4-5% of your salary is deducted automatically, on a progressive scale, and you simply have health insurance. If you want the super-duper supplemental insurance which covers things like massages and acupuncture (yes, you read that right American friends), it costs…$32 a month! There are no deductibles, no pre-existing conditions, and no premiums.
To an Israeli, this might hardly seem noteworthy. But allow me to explain how healthcare works in America. When I lived in the U.S., I was self-employed. I paid $500 a month simply to have health insurance. There are literally millions of Americans who have no insurance at all- which could result in emergency room visits costing many thousands of dollars if they get sick. People literally go bankrupt in the U.S. because of healthcare costs- they could even lose their home. In addition to my $500/month premium, I also had to pay what’s called a “deductible”. A deductible is the amount of money you personally have to pay before the insurance company starts paying anything for your treatments. Since my plan was very high-quality (by American standards), my deductible was fairly low: $1200 for in-network (doctors that worked with my insurance company) and $2000 for out-of-network (doctors that didn’t work with my insurance company but might be the best ones for what I need). That means that, before the insurance company will even pay one cent for your treatment, you may have to pay as much as $3200 in addition to your monthly $500 fee. Even after you “hit your deductible” (meaning you’ve paid these amounts), the insurance company only covers part of your treatment and you or your doctor have to submit paperwork to the insurance company each time, which may decide they don’t feel they should pay for your treatment. Sometimes, they’ll only tell you what they’ll cover after you go to the doctor. And sometimes, the insurance companies will not cover your treatment. Please re-read that Israeli friends- sometimes, even with health insurance, you will not get any payments from the company. In short, this is like playing Russian roulette and it can be very, very, very expensive. I’ve had years where, including medicines, doctor’s appointments, and insurance payments, I’ve paid $15,000 for healthcare- or more. Just for that one year.
So now perhaps you can see why I’m in awe of the Israeli healthcare system. Today, I went to get my healthcare card. It took all of 20 minutes. There is an app I can use to schedule my appointments. All medical records are digitized (oh yeah, Israeli friends- you often literally have to send pieces of paper between your doctors in the U.S. because there is no centralized healthcare system). I’m only beginning to learn the system, but I can already say that it is leaps and bounds ahead of what we have in the U.S.
There are a lot of things Israel can learn from the U.S. This is something Americans can learn from Israelis. Socialized healthcare works. It is not a theory, it is a fact. At a time when the American government is cruelly trying to dismantle Obamacare (which in and of itself it not even that great of a system, but was at least in the right direction) and kick millions of people off insurance, Israel guarantees all of its residents healthcare. Jewish, Muslim, Druze, Christian. Rich and poor. Young and old.
Healthcare is one of the reasons I made aliyah. Some things are easier in the U.S. than Israel, but healthcare is absolutely, without a doubt, not one of them. I was tired of my hard-earned money going to greedy insurance companies and wondering when or if my medical conditions would be treated. I’ve made a long list of doctors I’m going to go see and I can’t wait. I’m also going to get a lot of massages because they’re awesome and are a huge stress relief.
Health is life. Without it, you can’t do anything. I’m glad and grateful I live in a place that values it. And I pray that the American government learns from its ally what it means to take care of your people’s health.