After one of the worst periods of procrastination in my life, I finally signed up with a medical insurance plan here. Let me try to explain how the medical system works. The system isn't that clear to me yet, but here's what I do know.
The Israeli national insurance system is universal. All citizens are given nearly-free coverage which handles everything from basic doctor visits to hospitalizations, surgery to reduced cost medications, and even treatment of chronic diseases. The best part is that all insurance companies have to take a citizen under their service, regardless of age or health status. There are four insurance companies, and all the companies are treated as equal under the law. So, it doesn't really matter who you sign up with, but people choose their company based on word of mouth, as well as which facilities are closer to their homes. Universal pretty much means universal: everyone is accepted regardless of any condition, and being accepted means the same thing for everyone, namely, insurance in matters of health.
Ok, so I cheated and went to the government's webpage for national insurance (http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/1990_1999/1998/7/National%20Health%20Insurance). All in all, this system seems to be working pretty well. I see pharmacies everywhere, and each one is attached to an insurance company. There seems to be a medical building on every block. In fact, I live in a somewhat out of the way cul-de-sac, and we have a large facility on our street! I've asked around, and everyone seems to be fairly satisfied with the system. Sure, it's socialized health care, so maybe you have to wait in a longer line than you'd like, but don't we wait for hours in doctor's offices in America as well? Moreover, Israel has one of the highest per capita rates of doctors in the world, and we have some of the world's leading pharmeceutical companies...so we like to say we have the best medical system in the world. I'm sure other countries have more resources, but I can say this for sure: Israel makes the most out of what it has.
I'm not sure if America is ready for this universal health care system, but after observing Israel and her system, a main sticking point for America in universal care seems irrelevant. That sticking point would be, of course, money. I realize that Israel has about 7 million citizens, while America has over 300 million. However, the main difference is that America has trillions of dollars to spend, while Israel has about $35 bucks, give or take. No, seriously, Israel has to spend 9% of her GDP on defense, one of the highest rates around the world, and that percentage is on the lower scale of what we have spent during the Palestinian terror campaigns (commonly referred to as an "intifada"). The scary part is that Israel has to spend this money in order to exist. Israel has no choice but to beef up it's military. Even though Israel spends so much of her money on defense, she still has enough to care for her citizens.
On the other hand, America has now spent hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq, fighting an enemy that will never give up. One estimate claims, at least by last year, that we were spending $255 million per day in Iraq.* Per Day! And this is to fight an enemy that hides as civilians, hides behind families, uses remotely detonated weapons instead of engaging in a real war. Not only is the war a money pit, it is another Vietnam, which only served and only serves to drain the national reserve of confidence and morale.
I'm not trying to say anything in particular about the Iraq war. I've already said too much, maybe. What I am trying to say, however, is that America sure has spent a gross amount of money that could have gone a long way to establishing a universal health care system. I'm not even saying we should have a universal health care system in America. I am no expert on the benefits and drawbacks of universal versus private health care systems. Both have pros and cons, and I'll leave it to the experts to tell you what is what.
All that I am trying to get across is that money should not be the main stumbling block for America on the road to a better health care system. Israel is showing that even with a strapped financial outlook, a first-world country can look after its people. Israel's system is not perfect, but we all know that America needs some type of health care reform. That's all.
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