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Op-Ed: Pres. Obama: Israel Can Teach America About Health Care

This is not an argument for Obamacare. It is a critique of US medical care. Obamacare merely rearranges the deck chairs on the Titanic, and its proponents might learn a lot from Israel.
Published: Monday, January 20, 2014 7:36 AM


Complaints about Israel’s health and medical care system make me chuckle. My experience is one of general satisfaction with my choice of health plan (called 'kupah' - in Israel there are several competing plans, ed.), and praise for the doctors and nurses. If you think this system is tough, try negotiating America’s nettle of health care delivery.

The US system is a broken one only working for the rich, not even necessarily for the insured. Vilification and belittlement of the President and Obamacare (OC) focus on the erosion of individual liberties, the negative impact on business investment, and increasing the national budget deficit.  Sloppy government planning and failure to execute the pla in an efficient manner give gravitas to the opponents.  Eventually, however, it looks as though OC will become part of the national fabric like the two untouchables, Social Security and Medicare.

Health and medical care is phantasmagorically  too expensive for the US middle class to afford. CNBC 2013 reports “bankruptcies resulting from unpaid medical bills…(are) making health care the No. 1 cause of such filings, and outpacing bankruptcies due to credit-card bills or unpaid mortgages according to new data.  And even having health insurance doesn’t buffer consumers against financial hardship,” as 10 million Americans with coverage are not able to pay-off their medical bills in one year.

You don’t even get what you pay for: life expectancy, relative per capita cost of health care as a percentage of GDP, and absolute per capita cost for preventative and curative services, family planning, nutrition and emergency aid, ranks the US 46th behind Iran, according to a Bloomberg study.

Israel ranks fourth after Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan. Life expectancy in Israel is 81.8 years. Care costs the average citizen $2,426 per year. Americans live 78.6 years spending $8,608 on health care per capita.

Our business in the US, prior to our aliya, employed more than 70.  We severely reduced our employer contribution for premiums from 80% to 30%, increased co-pays to $50 per office visit, and for prescription medicines, raised deductible from $250 to nearly $2,000. Then I was warned to beware hiring young women and older men. The former have babies and the latter heart attacks. Heaven forfend an employee who contracts HIV or Lupus.

One valued employee received a job offer from another firm at a salary we were unable to match. He stayed with our company, because his pre-existing diabetes made him ineligible for their insurance. He was slave to his illness and insurance companies.

Mitt Romney, on a visit to Israel, observed, “You (Israel) spend eight percent of GDP on health care. You’re a pretty healthy nation.  We (US) spend 18 percent of our GDP on health care,10 percentage points more, (and) we have to find ways not just to provide health care to more people, but to find ways to fund and manage our health care costs.”

A key component of Israel’s health and medical care includes the individual mandate requiring every citizen to have insurance that Romney condemns as a communist policy.

 Every delivery system has its flaws, but Israel’s seven million people support universal coverage.  35 million Canadians support one of the world’s most popular systems.  A Harris-Decima poll concludes 82% of Canadians prefer their system; ten times the number of Americans believing the US system is superior.

“You want your own doctor don’t you?” cry Obamacare antagonists. Today you can have one in the US if you pay a concierge fee of $3,000 or more. So many specialists are already attached to social/business networks that cover their extraordinary medical malpractice premiums that the notion of “your own doctor” is quickly becoming a fairy tale.

A pregnant woman can see the same doctor for nine months, but the night of the delivery she gets whomever is on call.  Delivering a healthy baby in the US costs $6,000 and up, while my daughter-in-law in Israel at most spent $250 for the delivery and nine months of prenatal care.

This is not an argument for Obamacare. OC merely rearranges the deck chairs on the Titanic, and might learn a lot from Israel.

Americans need to face the reality of a broken system, and stop defending it like Shel Silverstein who wrote, “Oh what do you do, poor Angus, When hunger makes you cry? I fix myself an omelet, sir, Of fluffy clouds and sky.”