Making a doctor’s appointment & paying the fee in Israel.
Hebrew: תורים לרופאים
Here is how it works!
Residents – once you have chosen and joined a health fund you are entitled to medical assistance. You should choose your general family physician (GP) from the list of doctors provided by the Fund. You can choose a GP on the basis of recommendation, location, hours, languages spoken etc. Appointments can be made by telephone or online via the Health Fund’s website. Most doctors require that you make an appointment ahead of time, but some will say “just come”. An appointment with a GP is generally 10 minutes long. As it is generally impossible to keep to such a timetable, be prepared to be kept waiting.
Not all doctors clinics are well organized, some have administrative staff, some do not. If there is an assistant he/she will manage the doctor’s diary and call you in for your appointment. If there is no assistant, things become a bit more complicated. Be prepared for anything. In some clinics you will be allocated a number and then you will have to patiently wait your turn. Sometimes, a patient will walk into the waiting room and ask “who is last?” (Heb: mi acharon?) – the last person will identify himself and all is well – everyone takes their turn in a calm and well organized manner. You may also be asked “what time is your appointment?” (Heb: le ayze shaa ata moozman?). Be careful, sometimes you can get into a heated discussion with someone who came after you, but insists his appointment is before yours. In some cases, a list of appointments and times is displayed in the waiting room and that should settle that argument.
Be prepared to negotiate the situation and try not to get too upset by this behavior. Like it or not, that is just the way it is in Israel.
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The doctor’s fee
When you finally get to see the doctor, he will ask you for your Health Fund membership card. You are required to pay a nominal fee for the doctor’s visit. You are only required to pay this fee quarterly irrespective of the number of appointments you have had with this doctor during the quarter. Should you wish to change doctor in the middle of the quarter, you may have to pay a fee for that privilege. Check with your Health Fund and verify their rules and regulations.
Visits to specialist physicians cost more. There is also a participation fee for out-patient services, home visits, other therapies and treatments. Check out the costs for the type of treatment you require (for a chronic condition) before becoming a member of a particular Health Fund.
It is most convenient, when you join your Health Fund, to arrange that the fee for any doctors visits automatically be deducted from your bank account together with your membership fees. You will receive a statement of account with all doctors visits clearly itemized.
You have the choice to go privately if you can afford it. For instance, the Health Fund may only pay for a specified number of visits to the gynecologist while you are pregnant – if you want additional care you can go privately. Some doctors, also affiliated to the Health Funds, have private practices. Some doctors are not affiliated to any Health Fund and therefore any visit is on a private basis only.
Private visits are expensive but are sometimes necessary. The Health Fund has rules regarding private doctors too. You may be eligible to receive a reimbursement for part of the cost of the private visit. You are not entitled to the Health Fund discount on medications prescribed by a private doctor. It is sometimes possible to ask your Health Fund GP to give you a prescription for the medication stipulated by the private physician.
When dealing with private doctors you may be able to hasten treatments and surgeries that otherwise might take a long time via the Health Fund.
Generally speaking, there is a wide enough choice of doctors and specialists in each Health Fund. There are many Anglo doctors and most Israeli doctors speak English. Happily, we have the privilege of being able to obtain good care from the national health and we can go privately if we so choose.