Israel approves law to develop the medical tourism industry.
Wednesday, 2nd November 2016
Source : Israel Tourism Ministry

As part of the process of moving the Medical Tourism bill to the legislative track, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved its continued progression as a government law; Over the last few decades, medical tourism has grown significantly, becoming a worldwide trend.

Despite the partial steps taken so far regarding regulation, the government has yet to finalize a clear policy regarding medical tourism in Israel. 

The bill from the Ministries of Health and Tourism is based on three basic principles that have been accepted in line with the belief that a state has, first and foremost, an ethical obligation to provide medical treatment to its own citizens. This also recognizes that the public health system has significant budgetary needs that are expected to grow in the future.

The following principles are applied in the bill: 

  1. Caring for the Israeli patient: The bill is intended to prevent impairing the treatment given to the Israeli patient, and even, if possible, improve it.
  2. Strengthening the public health system: The bill seeks to ensure that income generated by medical tourism will be directed towards investing in the public health system.
  3. Ensuring professional and ethical treatment for the medical tourist: Regulations have been determined to ensure the tourist is given professional, ethical, and fair treatment, and help the industry’s long-term development.

The bill details a list of actions in line with these principles: 

  1. As a basis for regulating the business of medical tourism agents, it is proposed that a register be compiled of medical tourism agents with set preconditions for those wishing to register. The suggested model requires registration by anyone operating as a medical tourism agent.
  2. Creating obligations for medical tourism agents as detailed below:
  3. Obligation for fairness " towards both the patient and the medical institution where he wishes to be treated (section 9); maintaining medical confidentiality (section 10); Carrying out a reservation in writing " making the patient sign the original price quote that was sent to him from the medical institution, to ensure that the tourist is given the complete information he needs for informed consent, before leaving his home country (section 11); revealing any personal interest that the agent has in a particular medical institution (section 12); a prohibition on providing medical tourism agent services conditional on purchasing other services, to ensure the patient’s autonomy and transparency regarding the price quote (section 13); an obligation to wear an identifying tag when in the medical institution as part of his position (section 14), and a prohibition on contacting doctors except through the management (section 15).

It is proposed that the hospitals be required to obey regulations regarding medical tourism. These regulations are intended to achieve several goals: 

One is that the medical tourism not harm the quality of the medical treatment given to the Israeli patient. To ensure this, it is proposed that the hospitals be restricted regarding how many tourists they can host, if it impairs the availability of medical treatment for the Israeli patient. This will be based on data regarding the waiting time for carrying out various procedures in the hospitals and infrastructure availability. This is the basis of the requirement that hospitals interested in medical tourism be required to establish a suitable infrastructure for transferring the data to the Ministry of Health (section 21).

Another goal is that the income from this activity will be directed to the public health system and the Israeli patient. Therefore, it is recommended to take steps to increase the transparency of hospitals’ economic activity, emanating from medical tourism. Thus it will be possible to track the hospitals’ revenues from such activity and how they are used.

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