A New bill designed to regulate Medical Tourism in Israel, while preserving the rights of the Israeli patient, strengthening the health system and ensuring professional and ethical care for the medical tourist has been formulated
Health Minister Ya’akov Litzman: “The new bill will regulate the field of Medical Tourism and will contribute both to the health system and to tourism in Israel. On the one hand we wish to maintain medical tourism, while ensuring proper and professional care of tourists, and on the other hand we will ensure that the Medical Tourism will not come at the expense of the Israeli patient and that the revenues from Medical Tourism be directed to strengthen the public system.”
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin: “Dealing with the field of Medical Tourism to Israel has become, in recent years, a wide-ranging industry that brings in large amounts of foreign currency and constitutes a significant source of taxes, employment, as well as a substantial fundraising channel for the health system. A correct legal regulation of the field could contribute to the tourism field as a whole, both by increasing the number of tourists entering Israel and by improving Israel’s image and presenting its attractive and progressive aspects to the world.”
The Health and Tourism Ministries have distributed for comments the Medical Tourism Law Memorandum, which regulates this area for the first time. Upon receiving the comments of the public and the various government ministries, the bill will be promoted in the legislative track.
In recent decades, the number of people opting for medical tourism has risen considerably, and this activity has become a worldwide phenomenon. Despite partial measures that have been taken up till now to regulate this activity, a clear government policy regarding Medical Tourism in Israel has not yet been formulated.
Three fundamental principles are at the core of the bill. These principles have been agreed upon in keeping with the concept that the State is under moral obligation to provide medical care first and foremost to its citizens, and in view of realizing the fact that the public health system has considerable budgetary needs, that are expected even to increase in the future.
The principles applied in this bill are as follows:
- Protecting the Israeli patient: the bill was designed so as not to impair the care given to the Israeli patient and even to improve it, if possible.
- Strengthening the public health care system: the bill strives to ensure that the revenues from the Medical Tourism activity be directed towards investment in the public healthcare system.
- Ensuring professional and ethical care to the medical tourist: rules were established, which will warrant that the tourist receive professional, ethical and proper care, and which will aid in the long-range development of this field.
The bill lists a number of activities in line with these principles:
- As a basis for regulating the employment of Medical Tourism agents, it is proposed to establish a registry for medical tourism agents and to determine the threshold conditions for those who wish to register. The proposed model requires the registration of anyone engaged in activities involving mediation in medical tourism.
- The law aims to impose obligations on medical tourism agents as follows:
- The duty of fairness – both towards the patient and towards the medical institution in which the treatment is requested (article 9)
- Maintaining medical confidentiality (article 10)
- Booking a reservation in writing – having the patient sign the original price quote that was sent him by the medical institution, in order to make sure that the tourist receive full and unrestricted information that he needs in order to make an informed consent prior to his leaving his country of residence (article 11)
- Disclosing any personal interest that the agent has in a certain medical institution (article 12)
- Prohibiting the provision of Medical Tourism service mediation which is contingent upon purchasing additional services, in order to ensure autonomy for the patient and transparency in the price quote (article 13)
- Mandatory identification using a name tag during the stay at the medical institution while on duty (article 14), prohibition of contacting doctors other than through Management (article 15).
It is suggested that the hospitals be required to abide by rules pertaining to the manner of carrying out the Medical Tourism activity. These rules are designed to attain several goals:
- The Medical Tourism activity shall not be detrimental to the quality of medical care given to the Israeli patient. In order to ensure this, it is proposed to impose limits on hospitals in admitting tourists in the event it may hinder the accessibility of care for the Israeli patient, this based on the data regarding length of waiting periods for performing various procedures in hospitals and accessibility of the different infrastructures. Hence the demand that a hospital interested in carrying out Medical Tourism activity be required to set up an adequate infrastructure for transferring data to the Ministry of Health (article 21).
- The revenues originating from the Medical Tourism will be directed towards the public health system and the Israeli patient. For this purpose measures have been recommended that will augment the transparency of the economic activity that stems from Medical Tourism at the hospital and thus will enable a follow up of the hospital’s revenues from this activity and the manner in which they are used.