Thursday, January 12, 2012

We Are Gold Card Holders!

Shalom, chaverim! As usual, it's been a busy week, filled with continual to-ing and fro-ing to shops and government offices. This week, in addition to Elul's triumphant fixing of the leaky washing machine (!), and dozens of other small repairs, we also got our health cards from one of the "kupat cholim," or Israeli health funds.

The night before we went to register with our fund, we attended a Nefesh B'Nefesh event about health care in Israel. It was a very pleasant evening, where we met a number of olim (immigrants) and heard a presentation from a Canadian doctor who'd been working as a health fund physician for more than twenty years. He gave us lots of tips and a comprehensive overview of the changes and trends in Israeli medicine, not only in practice standards but in terms of the government's philosophy about it. If you are interested in reading an overview of the subject, an excellent introduction to it can be found at Nefesh B'Nefesh's website: .

In Israel, every citizen is automatically entitled to health care services for life, regardless of age or pre-existing conditions. When you make Aliyah, your first six months of basic health care dues are free. After that, you are charged a small fee of around $20 USD per month per person. If you are working, your employer pays the charge for you automatically. If you are indigent, the government pays it for you until you can pay for it yourself. But everyone gets health care, no matter what.

Prescription drugs are extremely cheap, since Israel is home to Teva, the largest generic drug manufacturer in the world. Naturally, in order to operate, Teva has a deal with the government to keep its prices low for Israeli citizens and Israeli health care providers. While there are doctors who are in private practice in Israel, the national thinking on the subject of health care is that it is not to be run as a profit-making venture.

When you sign up with a health fund, they give you a plastic card with a magnetic stripe on the back, similar to a credit card. Your medical ID number is embedded in this card. Whenever you go to any sort of health care facility, all they do is swipe your card and your files pop up on a screen. Doctors can communicate with other doctors about you by using your ID number, and also find out which of their pharmacies has your prescription in stock so you don't waste time running around. They have also just started using the card with a kind of "take a number" software. When you go to a walk-in clinic, you swipe your card and take a number. When your number is called, the person receiving you already has your name and information in front of them. Neato!

We opted for the souped-up version of insurance, which includes not only the same group of services I mentioned earlier, but also long-term care insurance and access to complementary modalities (acupuncture, chiropractic, etc.), as well as the option to obtain a second opinion from another doctor within the fund. For the two of us, it came out to the whopping total of about $80 USD per month.

Since we got the "fancy" insurance, they didn't issue us plain-old, vanilla cards, but gold cards instead. Not having to worry anymore about going bankrupt, in case of a serious illness or accident, has provided peace of mind that is priceless. Getting this gold card is the middle aged equivalent of finding a golden ticket in a Willy Wonka chocolate bar!

Finally, I wanted to share with you a funny clip I found on YouTube the other day. Years ago, there was a very funny English sketch comedy television program called "Harry Enfield & Chums." One of the actors, the hysterical Paul Whitehouse, did a Michael Caine impersonation that he called "Michael Paine, the Nosy Neighbor." I, too, have become such a "net curtain twitcher," watching my neighbors across the street. I've watched the feral cats, the dog walkers (only some are responsible and pick up the pooch poop), the birds, and the repairmen. We have also watched the mysterious woman who sometimes roams the street in the early morning, calls someone on her cellphone, then waits for a car to arrive. She gets in the car, talks with the person briefly, then leaves with a white paper bag in her hand. Is she a druggie? An informant? A Mossad operative? Or someone who needs fresh baked-goods delivered on demand? Oh, the imagination runs wild!

Anyway, here's the clip. You may have to listen to it a few times if your ear is not attuned to Michael Caine-ish Cockney. And, as usual, if you don't see the clip at all, please go directly to my blog's site at . Enjoy!

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