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Preparing for Aliyah With Complex Medical Concerns

Aviva Yoselis, Healthcare Advocate for The Shira Pransky Project, shares the following steps to preparing for Aliyah with complex medical concerns:

Medications

Collate a list of all your medications and try to ascertain if they are included in the Healthcare basket (see here). Use this list as a general guide. Some medications are available in Israel but not included in the basic health care basket – meaning patients need to pay for the medication out of pocket, which can be costly. It is also possible to get exceptions made for coverage of medication when it is not included in the basket, however there is a process involved.

Bring a three month supply of your medication or whatever your health plan allows for. This allows you make appointments with relevant specialists to have any prescriptions filled.

Medical Summaries

Medical summaries or tests you can obtain from your treating Doctors back ‘home’ – they may be beneficial to your new treating Dr who has not been treating you for several years. These will not assist you in applying for Bituach Leumi.

For example, if you have been diagnosed with Thyroid disease it is often helpful for doctors here to have records of what your previous medications have been and a summary of your condition.  This includes any diagnosis you have had since childhood it will assist your Dr to have summaries. The same is true of educational testing for both children and adults. You will still need to complete additional testing here in Israel but it is often helpful to come with a ready ‘paper-trail’.

Bring records of immunizations for children and adults alike, if available.

Insurance

Check any private insurance policies which you have purchased outside of Israel. It is advisable to check with your insurance broker if there is any level of international coverage  for medications, long term care, etc.

Once you become a citizen you are immediately covered on the national health insurance, however it is advisable to purchase traveler’s insurance for the first week of living here just in case.

Final Note

A good family Dr. is the key to accessing the Health care system here as they are your first port of call, in illness. Review their part in navigating the Kupah, and seek out valuable recommendations before you arrive.

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Choosing a Kupat Cholim

Among the questions we are frequently asked here at SPP are: I am making Aliyah, which Kupat Cholim (health fund) do I choose? How do I know which Kupah is the best for me and my family?

We thought we’d give you the tips and tricks in how to choose your Kupat Cholim:

Israel has four health funds: ClalitLeumitMaccabi, and Meuchedet. It is important to remember that, in terms of coverage, all health funds are obligated to provide the same basic basket of health care services, and even their supplemental plans are highly comparable.  The decision criteria described here are more about convenience and experience. 

When you make Aliyah you can register for health coverage and choose your Kupat Cholim at the airport. You are not obligated to register at this time. If you are unsure for what plan to register, you can do so later at your local post office.

As far as choosing a Kupah, in every conversation about how to choose your Kupah (including one that took place a while back on our facebook page) it always comes down to the following criteria: Geography/Accessibility, Recommendations, Particular services/doctors.

Geography and Accessibility:

It is important that your local Clinic is close to, and accessible, from your home. For example, there are some towns that only have one health fund clinic within, or very close by. Even in dense cities, sometimes small details can make a difference in how easily you can show up at your clinic. You may want to find out which kupah has the absolute closest branch to your residence, or in a commercial center that you will be frequenting. 

Recommendations:

Those with personal experience in the local kupot are truly your best resource. If you have English speaking friends or family already living in a particular area, it is good to ask for recommendations on a health fund. Most Anglos living in the Jerusalem area register with Meuhedet or Maccabi, while many in Ramat Beit Shemesh sing the praises of their Leumit clinic. Clalit has the most extensive services in locales around the country. As long as there is adequate local infrastructure, some communities find that different kupot make an extra effort to cater to English speakers at times, or members find that they have many Anglo friendly doctors.

Are you involved in any community groups, even virtual? Facebook community groups are an amazing crowdsourcing resource, as well as the dedicated groups Israel Medical Inquiries and Navigate the Israeli Healthcare System. People with positive experiences in their kupah, or with particular doctors, or clinics are really the best resource for a recommendation.

Particular Services/Doctors: 

If you have been referred to a particular specialist, or have a condition that needs attention, then it’s worth exploring if they work with a specific Kupah.  It is also important to ascertain if your prospective Kupah has special arrangements with a hospital that you know will be a regular resource for you. Generally, all of the kupot offer adequate support for any condition you might need to deal with, but if you come in with specific preferences, then you can narrow down which kupah you want.

You’re Not Stuck

Remember you can always  change your Kupat Cholim if you are unhappy with your first choice. See Switching Health Plans for general instructions for how to make the switch.

More Choices

There is also the option to upgrade to supplementary insurance.  Please note that you do not need to elect to upgrade upon making aliyah. You can opt for supplementary insurance at a later date, however a wait period for some additional services may apply.

As always, The Shira Pransky Project is here to assist with your navigational questions. Depending on your prospective community, they may be able to share the reputations and personal experiences with the different kupot that they have heard from other members, or connect you directly with others.

Whether you are a new Oleh, or have been here for years, we wish you a Mazel Tov, and Labriut, to your health!

Further Reading:

To find out more about what your Kupah is offering you please read here.

For all of the most up-to-date Kupah brochures in English, check out: Forms and Files.

For other related information we have translated as part of our collaboration with Kol-Zchut: Choosing a Health Plan

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Therapy Through the Kupat Cholim

As of July 2015, the responsibility for providing mental health services to the public was transferred from the Ministry of Health to the Kupot Cholim. For the average Kupah member (in non-acute and non-critical situations) this means figuring out how to receive therapy, possibly preceded by a psychological assessment or diagnosis.

For all mental health services you should start with your primary care doctor for referral. Also, once you find out where you need to go, check with the Kupah secretary or information service to see if you will need a Hitchayvut

Outpatient Clinics

There are therapists available in outpatient clinics of general and psychiatric hospitals, or community clinics run by, or by agreement with, the Kupat Cholim. These options are the cheapest (ranging from free to around 32 shekels, once per quarter) and you may be able to find one close to home. On the other hand, it may take a lot of time to get started, and your flexibility in choosing the right therapist for you may be limited.

Independent Therapist

The other way to go that many people consider ideal, is choosing an independent therapist. This option is more expensive (around 55 shekels for the first visit and 132 for each subsequent session) and it does not mean unlimited choice. The Kupah has a listing of independent therapists from which to choose (links below). The listing will include location and may also include the languages in which the therapist will work. You can contact these therapists directly until you find the right one and make an appointment.  At the Kupah, you will have to pay the co-payment and get a Hitchayvut to bring to the therapists’ office.

Useful Links:

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Payment and Choice in the Kupah [Basics Review]

As I read through Leumit’s Passport to Healthcare in Israel brochure from 2010 (available for download here) I thought it was a good opportunity to highlight some points that they felt were essential information about what a Kupat Cholim has to offer its clientele. I will not be referring to anything unique to Leumit, so members of Meuhedet, Maccabi and Clalit can also follow along to learn or recall just what you are entitled to receive, and what options you have in the Israeli public health system.

You Do Not Pay The Kupah for the Basic Basket

We’ve summarized the Basket of Health Services here, but these points bear repeating:

  • The Kupot Cholim provide the government’s package of basic healthcare services, which include: doctor visits, laboratory services, imaging, hospitalization, rehabilitation, paramedical (speech, occupational and other therapies), prescriptions and medical equipment.
  • You do not pay your Kupat Cholim for this insurance coverage (except for co-pays). The basic coverage is automatic when you sign up as a member to any kupat cholim. The funding comes out of your payments to Bituach Leumi (National Insurance Institute), not the kupot.

You Do Pay for Supplementary Health Insurance (Shaban)

Kupat Cholim Level 1 Level 2
Clalit Mushlam Zahav Mushlam Platinum
Maccabi Gold Sheli
Meuhedet Adif See
Leumit Kessef Zahav

 

Your monthly fees to the kupah are for additional policies that add benefits on top of the basic basket entitlements. Since you are paying extra for additional coverage, you should be familiar with the added benefits and how to use them. Some supplemental benefits:

  • Private doctors, or private medical procedures at hospitals or other facilities. These options can be limited in the expense covered, the number of times used in a year, or to whom or where you can go. Explore the arrangements directly with your kupah to find out how to exercise these private options, or get reimbursements. 
  • Additional or expanded categories of services, like genetic testing, dental treatment discounts, orthopedic products and travel vaccinations.
  • Extending coverage on treatments included in the basic basket, like additional paramedical treatments in child development services.
  • Some surgery, transplant or treatment abroad options.
  • Additional pre- and post-natal services and tests, like fertility treatments, genetic testing, scans, private obstetrician, preparation classes and convalescence.
  • Additional pediatric services, like testing for learning disabilities and bedwetting treatments.
  • Discounts on drugs not included in the basic basket.
  • More preventative care.
  • Expansion of mental health coverage.
  • Discounted alternative medicine options.

Your Kupah Has Doctor and Facility Choices Without Going Private

  • Your Kupah has a directory of physicians that are considered “within the kupah”. This directory is on the kupah website (in Hebrew) and is accessible through the 24-hour hotline representative, or your local branch secretary. Occasionally you may even be able to get a print version that looks like a small phone book.

  • You can use this directory to find a primary care physician, the center of your galaxy in the Kupah system, and to find specialists. 

  • Many primary care physicians can see you on the same day you call, or the next. 

  • Specialists can have longer wait times, but if you find multiple options from the kupah directory, you can “shop” for the best appointment.

  • Finding a facility or clinic that is not “within the Kupah” is still an option even without using your private appointment supplemental benefits, especially if the Kupah does not have a good alternative (within a reasonable time and distance). Request a hitchayvut from the kupah, and see what happens.

Further Reading

Healthcare Navigation and Rights Guidance

guidance signpost

 

 

Are you confused about your healthcare benefits? Your rights? How it all works? Do you need guidance on your options, making decisions, or even just where to go? 

 

AACI’s Shira Pransky Project provides short consultations and guidance to individuals with issues in the Israeli healthcare system via phone, email, or appointments at the AACI Max & Gianna Glassman Family Center in Jerusalem. Our staff includes professional healthcare advocate Aviva Yoselis, MPH, for cases requiring extended and continued support in navigating the Israeli healthcare system.

AACI’s Shira Pransky Project is able to offer a limited number of hours of hands-on guidance in Israeli healthcare navigation thanks to the generous support of The Abraham and Sonia Rochlin Foundation.

Email:

info@ShiraPranskyProject.org (please do not send confidential information)

Call:

02-566-1181 weekdays 08:30 – 16:00

In person:

Short consultations, walk-in or by appointment, will be taken as availability allows from 10:00 to 14:00 on Tuesdays at the AACI Max & Gianna Glassman Family Center in Jerusalem. Longer consultations and hands-on assistance available by arrangement.*

 

* Long consultations and direct navigational assistance from our professional healthcare advocate are hourly fee based services with generous full or partial subsidies available. Do not let financial concerns delay your request for assistance.

 

 

 

Videos: Using Your Kupat Cholim Online

This page contains videos from two out of the four national health funds about how to use their online resources, such as scheduling appointments and finding services. Even if you are a member of one of the other kupot cholim similar tools are usually available for all.

The original videos are in Hebrew and we have added English subtitles, so please make sure that you have the captions enabled. The online tools from each kupat cholim are only available via their Hebrew websites or apps, but we hope that with familiarity and courage you will consider taking advantage of these useful tools!

(We have also added another useful English produced independently by a Maccabi Clinic.)

Booking a Doctor’s Appointment Online – Without a Password (Maccabi)

Booking an Appointment from your Cellphone – Without a Password (Maccabi)

Ordering Prescriptions Online (Maccabi)

How To Request Prescriptions From Your Doctor Online (Maccabi)

Update Personal Details Online (Clalit)

Send Requests to Your Clinic (Clalit)

Finding Your Lab Results Online (Clalit)

Check your Kupah Entitlements Online (Clalit)

Weekly Healthcare Guidance at AACI Jerusalem

guidance signpost

 

Are you confused about your healthcare benefits? Your rights? How it all works? Do you need guidance on a your options, making decisions, or even just where to go? 

AACI’s Shira Pransky Project provides free 15 minute consultations and guidance to individuals with issues in the Israeli healthcare system every week at the AACI Max & Gianna Glassman Family Center in Jerusalem. Our experienced healthcare advocate, Aviva Yoselis, MPH, has over a decade of experience as a professional healthcare advocate, researcher and guide to navigating the Israeli healthcare system.

Guidance services that require more time are available.

Office hours: Mondays from 10 am to 2 pm.

To schedule in advance: Email info@ShiraPranskyProject.org or call 02-566-1181 during regular office hours.

Walk-in consultations will be taken as availability allows.

 

Pesach Cleaning Agents And Chemicals Safety Guidelines

pesach poison

In preparation for the Passover holiday, the Ministry of Health has shared the following safety rules for use of cleaning agents and chemicals prepared by Prof. Yedidia Bentur, of the Israel Poison Information Center at Rambam Medical Center and Orly Silvinger, of the Beterem Organization for Child Safety:

  • Cleaning agents are to be kept out of reach of children, in a high or locked place. Once the use is over, they must be returned to their place and the container closed, in order to prevent ingestion or inhalation of toxic and caustic agents.
  • It is advisable to purchase cleaning agents and drugs in packages that are difficult for children to open.
  • Do not mix cleaning agents, particularly acids and bleaches, these mixtures discharge toxic gases and may be dangerous in the case of inhalation.
  • Make sure to keep cleaning agents and drugs in their original package and keep the package shut. Do not store cleaning agents in drink bottles, even if the bottle states “Toxic” – toddlers cannot read.
  • Do not store cleaning agents near food products or drink cups.
  • Carefully reading the product’s directions before use, with special attention to warnings, may benefit both adults and children.
  • Drugs that are not in use or that have expired, cleaning agents and pesticides, paints and paint thinners that are not in use should be safely removed from the home without children having access to them.

In any case of exposure or suspected exposure to a toxic agent, seek medical assistance or contact the Israel Poison Information Center, Rambam Medical Center, telephone 04-7771900.

Click here for the full article on the Ministry of Health English website.

Accident Insurance and What to Do When a Child Gets Hurt

By Aviva Yoselis
Our strict contributed content guidelines ensure useful, informative and non-solicitous submitted content. Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.


Active Children Get Hurt

kid scraped kneeThe other day, I realized that there are actually people living in Israel who’ve never been to the Emergency Room, who’ve never had to take a bleeding child to the extended hours clinic to be stitched up, who’ve never looked at the chip in their child’s tooth after a fall from a slide and said, ‘yep, that tooth is gonna have to be fixed’. Now, before you stop reading in horror and say, my goodness what a negligent mother, let me just inform you that I have active boys. Three of them. Really active. And active girls who play with the active boys. We’ve been stitched, glued, x-rayed, bandaged…

So here are some important facts to know if your child, grandchild, niece, nephew or little neighbor gets hurt:

Accident Insurance for School Aged Children

Teeth

If a school age child (pre-K through 12th grade) has any type of tooth injury, chipped, knocked out, cracked,…treatment is covered by the school insurance, even if it didn’t happen on school property or during school hours. This means, that yes, the eight year old girl who was chasing her brother around the house, tripped, and cracked her two newly grown front teeth in half, can get full reconstruction of those teeth for free.

To go about this, you need to call the national insurance company (not connected to your kupah): 1-800-44-33-44 [in Hebrew only], give them your child’s information and they will call you back with a number and a list of eligible dental clinics. With that number and a letter from the school secretary saying your child is a student, you can make an appointment and go to one of the approved clinics.

Accident Injury

The insurance that you purchase at the beginning of each school year (mandatory~75 NIS), covers your school age child for all kinds of accidents (except for car and terrorist events-that’s through Bituach Leumi). If your child is hurt falling out of a tree, falling off a bike, injured on the playground, even if it didn’t happen on school property or during school hours, your child is eligible for insurance coverage. If they have a temporary disability, they may also receive coverage for that. Contact the secretary of the school for relevant phone numbers of the insurance.

Things to Remember

Head/facial wounds bleed, a lot

If the child comes in from the outside with blood running down their cheek, take a deep breath and wash the wound off first. Sometimes even small cuts look massive in the beginning.

If the injury looks deep, take the child to the nearest extended hours clinic of your kupah (not the ER unless it’s after midnight). Make sure you know where this clinic is before there’s an accident, so you don’t have to call around in the moment of panic. Put the number and address up on your fridge so it’s accessible. If there is an injury around the eye, or the cut is especially deep, know that the extended hours clinic or Terem may end up sending you to the ER to be stitched; you still need to go to the kupah clinic first, and then go to the ER with a referral, in order for the ER fee to be covered by the kupah.

[Editor’s note: If the situation is truly urgent, and wasted time contributes to the danger, do not pause for preliminary concerns. Click here to read more about Medical Attention Any Time and in Emergencies.]

Possible concussions

If the child is unconscious or loses consciousness, feels dizzy or vomits after a falling injury, take the child to the ER immediately.


Aviva Yoselis, MPH, founder and director of Health Advize and Viva Research Institute, is an expert in the field of health research, health behavior modification and shared medical decision making. She has over 20 years of experience facilitating seminars and teaching classes on health behavior and health system navigation. Aviva is skilled in identifying key points in complex situations, and looking at a range of possible solutions. Feel free to download her free guide on navigating the Israel Health Care system at http://healthadvize.com/contact-us/.

Ezer Mitzion’s Respite Program for Children with Special Needs

Empowering children and giving caregivers respite

respite

Ezer Mitzion’s respite program, allows your child to benefit from a change of scenery by spending  time with a host family  in a warm, supportive and caring environment. The program is designed to empower children, promoting their independence, whilst simultaneously giving caregivers a well deserved break.  

Host families are individually chosen  to meet children’s needs, and are trained by Specialist  staff to care for their special guests.  

Parents can choose their child’s host family from people they already know,  or from the pool of host families at “Ezer Mitzion.”All host families, undergo rigorous testing and training process and are monetarily compensated for hosting children.

  • The service is provided under the supervision of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services and supervised by qualified Social Workers.
  • The program is available Israel-wide and available year round, including Shabbat and Chagim
  • Professional Staff accompany the host family during the child’s stay
  • The service is open to all citizens of Israel, irrespective of religion, race or gender
  • There is an 24-hour emergency response

Target Population and Eligibility

Children and teens meeting the following criteria:

  • Aged 3-21 years old (in specific cases from 0-3 and 21-25)
  • Registered in one of three programs with Misrad Harevacha – Ministry of Social Affairs, Department for People with an Intellectual disability,  Department for  Treatment for People with Autism and  Department for Rehabilitation.

How to participate in the program?

  • Interested families are advised to contact the secretary of the program,  to join the database of host families.
  • Contact the Ezer Mitzion  respite program, via phone 073-3956783/4, or by email: chavim@ami.org.il Fax: 073-951120

Important Information:

  • The host family receives payments for hosting and accommodation, (the payment amounts to 180 Shekel for a midweek stay and 360 shekel for a weekend.

For more information from Ezer Mitzion click here.

Medical Attention Any Time and in Emergencies

Your Kupat Cholim is required to have options and procedures in place for you to receive medical attention within a reasonable time 24 hours a day. Your local clinic is  available daytime hours, and there are other options available during “off hours” that are subsidized by the kupat cholim. These other options include: urgent care centers, contracted private clinics and house-call companies. 

Click here for a description of alternative medical services during “off hours”.

What about the emergency room?

Even if you walk into the emergency room during off-hours you will still have to pay unless you have a referral or one of the conditions listed for exemption (see below). You should only go to the emergency room in a true emergency, not just because you need to see a doctor on short notice. 

Click here for a description and listing of exemptions from Emergency Room costs.

In contrast to the emergency room, other options are covered by the Kupat Cholim (with a co-pay) provided you use them at the correct time. If you have the time and presence of mind in your condition, you should call your kupat cholim’s 24-hour number for directions (listed below). The operator can tell you where there are urgent care centers or other clinics you can go to in the area, and you can find out the hours and cost for the house call option. If the best option is to go to an emergency room, the operator’s referral is enough to guarantee coverage by the kupat cholim.

Kupat Cholim’s 24-hour telephone information centers:

  • Clalit:          *2700
  • Maccabi:     *3555
  • Meuhedet:   *3833
  • Leumit:         1-700-507-507

 

But… Emergencies?!

Of course, if the situation is truly urgent, and wasted time contributes to the danger, then you should not pause for these preliminaries. If you need an emergency room, that is where you should go without delay. If you are hospitalized from there, or if your condition matches any of those listed for automatic exemption, all fees will be covered by the Kupat Cholim, and if not, you can establish that the visit was “medically justified” after the fact and receive at least partial coverage.

What if you need an ambulance?

It is also possible to face the expense of using an ambulance to get to the hospital, unless you are exempt. In this case too the gold standard for establishing that the ambulance evacuation was an emergency is if the patient was then hospitalized. Once again, one should not hesitate to call an ambulance when it is necessary, as an emergency situation should not be delayed. 

Click here for a description and listing of exemptions from ambulance evacuation costs.

So remember…

  • Your kupat cholim is responsible for providing medical attention at any time of day.
  • The emergency room can cost you plenty if you use it when it is not a true emergency.
  • An ambulance should not be considered a convenient form of transportation to the hospital if it is not necessary.
  • Do not hesitate to use emergency services in urgent situations!

 

Subsidized Addiction Rehabilitation at Retorno

The Retorno Jewish Center for Addictions is currently offering a special subsidy for their inpatient program.

Click here to see the full listing for Retorno in our Oranizations Directory.

Retorno offers private inpatient treatment for:

  • Alcohol addiction
  • Drug addiction
  • Gambling addiction
  • and other, concurrent addictions

The current subsidy is available until Purim, March 22, 2016, and allows the program to be offered as follows:

  • Free for Israeli Citizens in Hebrew. The program is paid for by Social Services (Misrad Herevacha). There is a small fee paid for by client, which is refunded by Bitach Leumi.
  • 12,000 NIS per month for Israeli Citizens in English.
  • $4,800 for non-Israelis in English. 

The programs are intended for Men ages 17.5 and up and for Girls or women ages 14 and up. There are separate divisions for men, women, and youth.

For more information call Shoshana at 052-436-9888 (Israel) or 718-285-9815 (US).

Click here for the program description and application on Retorno’s website.

*Subsidy does not include monthly expense account. 

Related:

Listing of organizations related to addiction on our Organizations Directory

Out-of-Balance

By Ilene Bloch-Levy

I used to view my life as a daily task in which I smoothly navigate between two vying planes. Then my father’s life intersected mine and I was so focused on giving that my life gelled into one.

On one plane, I have my ‘ill life’ which constitutes my ongoing battle with cancer. Replete with challenges it runs the gamut from medical to administrative. There are protocols that need to be continuously re-evaluated, weekly treatments, frequent blood tests, recurrent trips to the emergency room, and hospitalizations. There is endless paperwork, staying abreast of new medications, discussions with the hematologist, informational conferences.

On another, I have the life I love to live. This revolves around satisfyingly creative work, family, children, many grandchildren, and until recently, caring for my father.

Sometimes the planes are seamlessly balanced, other times, I am so out of balance, I feel I am falling off the precipice.

Last March my husband and I flew back to the States to help my 90-year old father pack and make aliyah.

For months my sister and I had been discussing the possibility of bringing my father to Israel. Until he was 90 years old, he worked full-time. But once the daily routine vanished, my father became restless. We felt that a change would be good, and since most of the grandchildren and all of the great-grandchildren were living in Israel, Israel seemed to offer an outstanding solution.

My father agreed. And, life began anew for him as he settled into an assisted living residence equidistant to the extended family. He took advantage of the diverse activities, discovered new interests and enjoyed frequent visits from family members.
I would visit twice-weekly on my way home from work, and on Fridays to wish him Shabbat Shalom.

I was amazed at how wonderfully he was adapting to being a new oleh, in a new city, in a new residence. I was equally amazed at how smoothly I was able to maintain the balance I had so carefully crafted since becoming ill four years ago. The situation seemed idyllic.

That is, until my father became ill and one hospitalization led to another. Now, instead of thrice-weekly visits to my father the visits were daily.

As my father’s health deteriorated, so did mine. And, as his life was thrown off balance, so was mine. So that by the time my father passed away in his hospital bed, I was in a hospital bed some 20 kilometers away.

We never fully realize how delicate that balance in life can be. As much as we would like to manage it, I learned that we cannot, nor should we want to. But, perhaps there is comfort in knowing that when one injects life with unbounded love and caring, one’s ‘ill life’ and the life one loves to live can seamlessly blend into one. As it should be.

Ilene Bloch-Levy was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in March 2012. She grew up in New York and made aliyah in 1986. She has 6 married children, and her husband has 3 married children. They both enormously enjoy a gaggle of grandchildren. A freelance copywriter, Ilene lives in the Shomron. According to her, “One of the joys of working in Israel is that Israelis get the important things in life; during my treatments and hospitalization, all of my clients patiently waited for me to return to work.”

[Editor’s note: We are grateful to Ilene for sharing some of her personal experiences with the SPP community, and are confident that her thoughts will help strengthen and enlighten the readers. Her views are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of AACI’s Shira Pransky Project. If you would like to contribute to our blog with your own thoughts or experiences related to the Israeli healthcare system, let us know: info@shirapranskyproject.org.

Related

Medical Cannabis

סוכנות ישראלית ממשלתית לקנאביס רפואי

סוכנות ישראלית ממשלתית לקנאביס רפואי

“Cannabis is a substance that is defined as a “dangerous drug”. Medical Cannabis is not a medicine, it is not registered as a medicine, and its efficacy and safety when used for medical purposes has not yet been established. Nevertheless, there is evidence that cannabis could help patients suffering from certain medical conditions, and alleviate their suffering.”

Thus opens the homepage of the Medical Cannabis Unit of the Ministry of Health (MoH)  with as much clarity of purpose as can be mustered for the apparently loaded subject.

Over twenty thousand patients currently have permits for the use of medical cannabis in Israel, and over many years the means of supplying the substance to those in need have slowly progressed to the point where Israeli researchers, growers and distributors have gained international recognition as innovators. The evolution of policies is ongoing, with an expansion of availability seemingly around the corner. Still, the following is a summary of the current state of affairs, and will be updated when the MoH administration plans are fully implemented.

Cannabis is Not in the Healthcare Basket

“The Ministry of Health wishes to remove obstacles to the supply of this drug to patients who could benefit from it medically and who wish to purchase it at their own expense.”

MoH website

This means that the MoH regulates who is allowed to use medical cannabis and who is allowed to supply it, but they are not obliged to provide it through the public healthcare system or cover its cost. Instead, permitted patients subscribe to a specific licensed supplier and pay a monthly fee. Currently this fee is NIS 380 per month, to which additional charges may be added for delivery, equipment, or other accompanying expenses.

One issue that has been recognized by patients and officials is the fact that the monthly fee bears no relationship to the prescribed amount of the drug that the patient receives. This may be changed in future policies, and there is always the possibility that eventually the committee in charge of the health basket will add cannabis to the list of medications that the government primarily finances for patients.

Another innovation that is planned by the MoH is to have the drug available from regular pharmacies instead of specially designated distributors, though this plan has not yet been implemented.

How to Receive a License

The request for a permit is an electronic form available on the MoH website that is filled out on the computer and then printed to be faxed or mailed to the Medical Cannabis Unit by a doctor specializing in the medical field of which the patient is afflicted. One notable exception The Ministry of Health has given oncologists in most of the major hospitals in the country the direct authority to issue medical cannabis licenses.

Currently, requests are not accepted from family doctors and general practitioners, though ministry officials have stated their plan to offer a short training course to any doctor in order to qualify for prescribing the drug. Theoretically, they will even be allowed to issue licenses directly, though this will not be clear until the plan is implemented.

The Recommending Doctor’s Responsibilities

The patient-doctor relationship plays a central role in the MoH’s approach to issuing licenses. The recommending doctor is specifically associated with the license that is issued and if the patient changes doctors the license will have to be updated. If there is any change of status of the patient under treatment, it is the responsibility of the doctor to update the Medical Cannabis Unit’s administration. The doctor must perform medical follow-ups with the patient every three months for the first year of treatment and every six months afterwards.

Recognized Conditions and Indications

The following conditions are currently recognized explicitly by the Ministry of Health as entitled to consideration for a license:

  • Oncology Patients
  • Chronic Pain
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Tourette’s Syndrome
  • Terminally ill patients
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

In most cases patients are expected to have exhausted other conventional treatment options before they can receive a license. There are also other explicit indications for treatment for each condition.

All specialist doctors may make a recommendation for a medical cannabis license and either petition the indications committee of the Ministry of Health to add a new indication to the list or request individual exceptions for conditions not currently in the list that the doctor feels warrants the use of cannabis for the patient.

Further Resources

Ministry of Health:

Tikun Olam, Israel’s most prominent growing, research, and distribution organization: