And on the other side of the globe ...
HCFA's policy director, Brian Rosman, just returned from a short trip to Israel. Although his trip didn't focus on health policy issues, he couldn't help but notice it when health issues were in the news:
"Israel moved to a universal coverage 'managed competition' system in the mid-1990s. Everyone must join one of 4 health plans, of which each has a network of clinics and hospitals. The government pays plans using funds that come from a payroll tax and from general revenue. The government sets a uniform benefits package for all plans.
"Last week, the news focused on the services available from the health plans. There is a constant tug-of-war in Israel between the Health Ministry, which seeks to add more benefits, and the Treasury, which tries to limit expenditure growth. Patients who could be helped by expensive new therapies often go to the press, aided by promoters of new therapies. The media pressure often succeeds in getting the new treatment added to the package. There is less public pressure on behalf cheaper preventive therapies, even though they may be more cost effective. Last week, a conference presented charges that drug companies withhold unfavorable information to get new drugs approved."
Another Israel connection: HCFA board member Dr. Norbert Goldfield heads a program called "Healing Across the Divides," which organizes cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian health professionals. The program works with Physicians for Human Rights and other groups to promote peace and improve health for Palestinians in Israel and in the West Bank.