ISRAEL'S HEALTH SYSTEM RANKED FOURTH IN WORLD: Pictured: Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo: EdoM/Wikimedia Commons
ISRAEL’S HEALTH SYSTEM RANKED FOURTH IN WORLD: Pictured: Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo: EdoM/Wikimedia Commons

Israel has one of the world’s best nationalized health systems, according to various online sources. In 2013, Bloomberg News ranked it as fourth in the world.

In the latest installment of our Health Care Around the World series, the UMHS Endeavour looks at the nationalized medical system of Israel and what the public and students at American and Caribbean medical schools can learn from it as the USA adapts to changes in our own health care policies due to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). We will look at how Israel’s health system works, and also explore gaps in Israeli and Palestinian health care.

Israeli Health Care Overview

All Israeli citizens are covered under the National Health Insurance Law, “through payment of monthly premiums to the National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi),” according to the website Nefesh B’Nfesh (Hebrew for Jewish Souls United), a nonprofit organization promoting Jewish immigration to Israel.

Residents may choose from four different health plans, all offering an “identical basic basket of services” with no restrictions for age, pre-existing conditions or overall health. The Nefesh B’Nfesh website says availability of services can differ by location, but plans include doctor visits, diagnostic and laboratory services, hospitalization (including births), plus discounts on prescription medication.

Although not all services, treatments or prescriptions are covered under the four plans, people can buy supplemental insurance to receive such wider coverage as optical and dental.

Basic prescription medications are usually covered under the four plans, but the Israel Ministry of Health has special conditions on medications. For more information, visit



Ranked 4th in World

Back in 2013, Bloomberg News ranked Israel’s health care system as fourth in the world (the USA was ranked in 46th place).

The Times of Israel wrote, “The data was compiled by Bloomberg and countries were ranked based on three criteria: life expectancy; relative per capita cost of health care (percentage of GDP per capita); and the absolute per capita cost of health care (expenditures covering preventive and curative services, family planning, nutrition and emergency aid).”

Countries included in the ranking had populations of at least five million, life expectancy of 70 years or more and a GDP per capita of $5,000 or more.

“Israel’s life expectancy is 81.8 years, and health care costs per capita were calculated at $2,426 (or approximately NIS 8,800),” the Times of Israel said.

The newspaper said the Bloomberg report claimed Israel “has the longest life span in the Middle East and Africa.” In addition, Israelis have the 12th longest retirement globally (lasting more than 17 years on average).

Facts About Israeli Health

Below are facts about health statistics in Israel from the Jewish Virtual Library. 

• Infant mortality rate is low (3.6 per 1,000 live births in 2010).
• “In November 2015 Bloomberg ranked Israel the sixth healthiest country in the world, taking into account data from the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Health Organization. Israel was the only Middle-Eastern country to appear in the top 10, and the United States, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Sweden, and U.K., all ranked lower than Israel on the list,” Jewish Virtual Library says.

Gaps in Israeli & Palestinian Health Care

There are definite gaps in Israeli and Palestinian health care. Israelis live on average 10 years longer than Palestinians, according to a January 2015 article in the Jewish Journal “Gaps in Israeli and Palestinian Health Care.

The article by Linda Gradstein, which originally appeared on, quoted figures from a report by Physicians for Human Rights in Israel.

The report noted that Palestinian hospitals lack basic equipment such as PET-CAT scanners, used to detect cancer and other diseases.

“While this machine is routine in Israeli hospitals, no Palestinian hospital or clinic has one,” the article said. “Any patient needing this kind of scan needs to put in a request, which must be approved by Israel.”

Israeli health officials “make every effort” to help Palestinians get the health care they need and work with the Palestinian Authority to transfer ill Palestinians to Israeli hospitals for treatment.

The article said Palestinian health care in the Gaza Strip, home to 1.8 million Palestinians, is “significantly worse” than in the West Bank, the Palestinian area that includes part of Jerusalem (East Jerusalem).

Mor Efrat, the author of the report by Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, told that the Jewish state has a responsibility to give Palestinians proper health care.

“As long as Israel uses mechanisms to control the Palestinian medical system, it has a responsibility for equal treatment for Palestinians,” Efrat said.

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