Dalhousie Law Journal


Israel, health care, reform, national health insurance, managed competition, National health Insurance Law, policy, regulation


Israel's ongoing health reform provides lessons regarding attempts to combine universal coverage under national health insurance with a version of managed competition. Based on principles of 'justice, equality and mutual aid," Israel's National Health Insurance Law, 1994 guarantees access to a broad basket of basic services to be provided by four competing sick funds, and the availability of resources adequate to finance the basket. The new rights of citizens to universal coverage and to move freely among sick funds constituted a major policy breakthrough. However, successive amendments to the Law reflect continuing controversy over the amount of resources required to finance the basic basket. Despite the intention to base the system on decentralization and competition, successive amendments have placed more control over health system finance and sick fund management in the hands of the Ministries of Finance and Health. Updating the basic basket to take account of new technologies and drugs has raised unresolved dilemmas. In the Israeli case the dialectic of management vs. competition and of government vs. market, obscures fundamental issues related to the right of citizens to health services. The process set in motion by adoption of The National Health Insurance Law, 1994 calls on public managers and politicians to design institutions which can set priorities within a limited budget and effectively regulate the health care system.