A clinic for refugees in Tel Aviv
Photo: Ohad Avidan Keener

Thousands of children in Israel without healthcare

PHR petitions High Court to extend health care to children without permanent residential status, many of whom don't qualify for health care because of holes in existing policy

Thousands of children in Israel do not qualify for healthcare, as a result of their or their parents' status in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) announced Thursday, in a petition to Israel's High Court of Justice requesting that such children be granted health insurance.


According to the petition, children of refugees seeking safe haven in Israel, children who have one Palestinian parent or children whose parents cannot afford basic insurance arrangements are not having their basic medical needs met under the existing mechanism.


Since 2001, the state set up a special arrangement to allow foreign workers to purchase a basic health care package for their children through the 'Meuchedet' HMO. The package, which includes all the same benefits as the basic state-issued package, costs NIS 185 (approximately $45) a month for one child or NIS 370 (approximately $90) for two or more children.


Nonetheless, there are several problems with this arrangement that leave many children without health coverage. For example, the child must have lived in Israel for at least half a year to qualify for coverage, even if the child in question is a newborn baby.


Additionally, the arrangement does not cover medical problems that existed prior to purchasing the health insurance. Likewise, falling behind on payments brings an end to the insurance. Finally, children with a Palestinian parent do not qualify for the insurance.


The petition states that "in practice, many children are left without health care because of their status." They note that, since 2001, PHR has treated some 800 children who did not qualify for health insurance or whose parents could not afford it.


'Israel has responsibility to children'

The arrangement "is motivated by the consideration of economic pros and cons and not by the acknowledgment of the right of children to receive healthcare," the petition read, adding that the organization has repeatedly approached the Health Ministry and requested they reassess the children's healthcare policy.


Ran Cohen, in charge of PHR's department of individuals without permanent residential status, said "the children are not to blame for their parents' economic shortcomings – and the state doesn't need to set draconian conditions to give healthcare."


"Israel must give all children living in Israel status of social residents, regardless of the status of their parents," he said.


"The right to life is a basic legal right granted to everyone and so is the right to receive medical treatment. The current arrangement bars certain children and babies from that right and Israel, who is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, must stop abandoning them, said Johanna Lerman, PHR's lawyer on this case.


The petition quoted a ministry response that the decision on health care for children without permanent residential status was discussed and determined during a meeting of government ministers and that, furthermore, that they were assessing whether to shorten the waiting period since "it is not suited to deal with the issue of refugees."


פרסום ראשון: 03.19.09, 15:18
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