Only a few days after the Israeli tax authority reported an unexpected surplus in tax revenues in 2017, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) announced his choice of using this windfall to promote his upcoming election campaign: he plans to invest around $300 million of it in upgrading the country’s long-term care insurance. The potential beneficiaries would be some 930,000 Israelis over age 65 – 11% of the population, as well as younger disabled patients.
And so, while many economists have suggested that a more prudent way to use the funds would be to apply them to the country’s budget deficit of 2.15% of GDP – to secure the economic future of today’s children, Minister Kahlon opted to secure the future of older Israelis instead, because, after all, children don’t vote.
But despite the criticism of the Finance Minister for his deficit spending, it must admitted that the new plan will bring much solace to Israel’s neediest citizens. As Chairman of the Histadrut national labor union Avi Nissenkorn put it: “We can say that the State of Israel has changed its face in the area of long-term nursing care. Within a short period of time, we will reach a situation where severe nursing patients will reach a pension of $1,420 [a month – the average Israeli income is $5,300], and anyone who wants to hire an Israeli nursing worker will receive another incentive for additional hours, while the worker will receive a salary increment that will reward him for the hard work he performs.”
The union leader added that “the burden that exists today on children in institutions that do not offer long-term nursing care, forcing them into hospitalization because of the family’s income will be removed. This is tremendous news that cancels a lot of red tape. This is real help in nursing assistance both at the home and in medical facilities, as well as in the community at large.”
Ministry of Health Director-General Moshe Bar-Simantov introduced the plan’s main benefits, which should be an incentive for older American Jews to hurry over to their homeland to reap some of the same benefits, as Globes reported on Monday:
The maximum nursing hours at home will rise from 22 to 30 weekly hours.
Home visits by doctors and nurses will offset the need to move to old age homes.
No more family members’ deductible payments for long-term care of a disabled close relative.
Continued treatment to be synchronized with the national insurance systems, the HMOs, and the Health Ministry.
Basic dental care for the elderly over the age of 75, and dental rehabilitation with a deductible to be determined according to the income of the elderly patient.
“The state puts its hand deep in its own pocket and takes responsibility for its citizens,” Bar-Simantov concluded, overlooking the fact that when your government puts its hand in its own pocket you are bound to find the same hand in your own pocket soon enough.
Minister Kahlon told reporters Monday that “the State of Israel has a strong economy,” and that “in recent months I have heard endless discussions about what to do with the fruits of this growth. In terms of values, morality, and also economically, the good thing to do is to invest the money in these people. This money provides a national safety net for our parents and for the weaker members of society.”
One could also argue that morally and economically Israel should not spend money it actually owes to the banks but should pay its bills instead.
Health Minister Yakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), whose votes are essentially guaranteed come next election, thanked the Finance Minister nonetheless, praising him for never claiming the treasury is empty “only to suddenly come up with 20 billion shekel in the pot.” He added: “the treatments will be better, the hours will be better, and with God’s help there will be health.”