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Researchers call to reform long-term care as Israelis live longer

More than 5 million people also have private long-term care insurance.

A caregiver assists an elderly woman on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem, July 2, 2023. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.
A caregiver assists an elderly woman on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem, July 2, 2023. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.

The elderly population in Israel is rapidly growing with longevity expected to continue to rise, creating a need for a better-coordinated system for long-term care benefits, a study released on Thursday concludes.

The number of those aged 75 and over has grown by about 9,000 individuals per year as life expectancy in Israel, which stands at 85 years for women and 82 years for men, continues to increase, the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel researchers found.

The number of seniors eligible for long-term care benefits from both private insurance plans and the National Insurance Institute (NII) has almost doubled over the last decade, according to the study.

Long-term-care services provided in the community are primarily financed by the NII; however, more than 5 million people also have personal long-term care insurance, mostly purchased through one of the country’s four health funds.

As of December, about 346,000 elderly people were receiving such benefits from the NII (as compared to about 180,000 in 2018), which totaled more than NIS 16 billion ($4.3 billion) annually, according to the study. An in-home caregiver is the main service financed by the NII.

Nadav Davidovitch
Nadav Davidovitch. Credit: KhenM via Wikimedia Commons.

At the same time, in the past decade, the number of people with private long-term-care insurance obtained outside the country’s four health funds has almost doubled—from 500,000 in 2012 to 900,000 in 2022, the study found.

“The aging of the population is currently one of the biggest health challenges and will continue to be so in coming decades,” said professor Nadav Davidovitch, chair of the Taub Center Health Policy Program. An expert on infectious diseases, he heads Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s School of Public Health; serves as chair of the Association of Public Health Physicians in Israel; and previously was chair of the Center for Health Policy Research in the Negev.

“As we show in the research, the current structure of long-term-care insurance—apart from being unsustainable—suffers from numerous problems and exacerbates health inequality between various population groups,” he added.

The study recommends compulsory saving for long-term care and making paying into health funds’ long-term-care programs mandatory for people of all ages.

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