Preventing Discrimination in the Child Development Field
Today (21.7.2020) we appealed to the Minister of Health demanding he act in order to ensure that every child assessed as needing developmental treatment and found eligible for the treatment within the public health coverage will be given the treatment urgently, fully, and equally. Currently, 22,000 children have been awaiting treatment for many months, even years. Some of them are forced to travel unreasonable distances to receive it, and others forced to purchase it privately.
Currently, treatment is given in three ways: by the health clinics themselves, by healthcare providers that the health clinics refer patients to via Form 17, or through purchase of the service privately via a financial arrangement or reimbursement plan based on a price set by the Ministry of Health. In the past two years, the Ministries of Health and Finance have been promoting reform in the Child Development field. As part of this, starting on 1.9.2020, services from private providers will no longer be reimbursed, under the expectation that all children should be receiving services from their health clinics or child development units. With this reform coming into effect, thousands of children are expectant to join those already awaiting treatments.
The Ministry of Health has assessed the cost of each treatment and set a rate, but in fact the health clinics are paying the child development units much less than the determined rate. In fact, there are units (especially in the Arab sector) to which the health clinics are paying what they pay other units with greater bargaining power, for the exact same treatment. As a result, a significant number of these units have been utilizing the financial support of local authorities throughout the years, that have filled in the gap between the financing from the health clinics and the true costs of treatments, despite the fact that the duty to finance treatments is placed upon the health clinics alone. Recently, some of the local authorities have made it known that they will stop financing this service.
The current situation is especially discriminatory against impoverished children. These children are waiting to be diagnosed and treated, without the possibility to afford private care and receive partial reimbursements after the fact. Children who live in disadvantaged localities who cannot afford to support the healthcare providers, or who do not have temporary alternatives to the health clinics themselves, are also discriminated against. Children living in Israel’s geographic periphery are often forced to travel great distances to receive the treatment, which is an option unavailable to impoverished parents without means of transportation, who cannot take a day off work in order to travel by public transportation to another city or cannot afford such trips. This means that the most impoverished children, and especially those living in the periphery and in low socio-economic status, are hurt the most.
In our appeal to the Ministry of Health, Attorney Maskit Bendel demanded:
To ensure that every child will receive treatment within three months from the date of their referral for assessment;
To determine what is “reasonable distance” for providing treatment;
To supervise the communication between the health clinics and service providers in the field, and as part of this to determine an obligatory minimum rate for all treatments;
To make the information available to the public.