Israeli health care can provide you with the world’s most advanced treatments and surgeries. Medical tourists seek out Israeli hospitals, clinics, and dentists. But services vary for Israelis and for visitors from other countries. Here’s what digital nomads, tourists, and expats need to know about healthcare in Israel.
An Overview of Israel’s Healthcare System
In Israel, all citizens and permanent residents are covered by Israel’s National Health Insurance Law. Under this law, Israel’s citizens and residents have the right to receive healthcare “within a reasonable time and at a reasonable distance from their place of residence.”
To fund this system, Israeli citizens pay a tax of 3% to 5% of their income, and the government funds the rest. Many new citizens are entitled to free healthcare for six months to a year.
To receive their healthcare, Israelis join one of four public healthcare providers collectively called “Kupot Cholim.” The health services companies are — Maccabi, Meuhedet, Leumit, and Clalit — offering a standard Health Basket and Medication Basket, required by law. They also provide unique basket options.
For Israelis getting care through Kupat Cholim, there are co-payments for some standard services. The amount of a co-payment depends on the plan and individuals’ eligibility. Israelis can also choose to buy supplemental insurance (“Bituach Mashlim”) to get more services.
Israel has healthcare options for short- and long-term visitors. Due to the complexities of Israel’s health system, most visitors prefer to get coverage with an international health insurance program before they travel to Israel.
Learn More: Travel & Safety Tips When in Israel
Israel’s Healthcare System Pros & Cons
The health care system in Israel has its positives and negatives. Below are the strengths of the medical system in Israel and the challenges this system faces today.
Pros of Israel’s Healthcare System
Israeli health care is consistently ranked amongst the best in the world. It is rated well by the World Health Organization and ranked fifth for innovation worldwide. Israelis praise their doctors’ expertise and skill with surgery. They receive affordable, quickly delivered mental health care and prescription drugs. Israel also provided strong health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a high and early uptake of COVID-19 vaccines.
Israel’s private medical system works in parallel to the Kupat Cholim system and offers the same excellent care. Medical tourism to Israel means that travelers can find multi-lingual private clinics, hospitals, and dentists. Their detailed web sites list a wide array of services and surgeries.
Cons of Israel’s Healthcare System
Health care in Israel, while still excellent, has been under stress for a decade. Expect long wait times for specialist appointments and surgeries. Appointments that use special equipment, like an MRI, may be scheduled at all hours of the day and night. And Israeli hospitals are crowded and noisy, considered by Israelis to be for emergencies only.
Israel’s government bureaucracy also impacts their healthcare system. You can change your Kupat Cholim, but only once a year, on a specific date.
There are also gaps in the Kupat Cholim system. Almost 80% of Israelis pay for extra insurance, either private or a Kupat Cholim supplement, to cover items like dental care. Be aware that visitors who need pregnancy care or give birth in Israel must pay for their care. Prenatal and postnatal care is provided partly by a mother’s Kupat Cholim clinic and by the Ministry of Health, through the “Tipat Halav” (Drop of Milk) maternal and child care clinics.
Challenges of Israel’s Healthcare System
For visitors and expats, the main challenge of healthcare in Israel is getting the information you need. Much official information about Israel’s healthcare system is only available in Hebrew. English-language information may be out of date, phrased in complex medical terms, or focused on treatments for medical tourists.
It can be hard to choose among Israel’s four Kupot Cholim. Different Kupat Cholim provide stronger services in different areas. For example, Clalit has the best network in rural and border areas. Many people who speak English register with Meuhedet or Maccabi.
It’s all right to ask for help finding a doctor or choosing a Kupat Cholim. In Israel, asking friends and family for a recommendation to a doctor is common. Hotels and your nation’s embassy can also direct you towards doctors and clinics who speak your language. And Israel’s Ministry of Health has an English-language site and sponsors a Doctors Channel where the videos, in Hebrew, have English subtitles.
Does Israel Have Universal Healthcare?
Israel provides a right to healthcare and universal healthcare for its citizens. To receive healthcare as an Israeli citizen, you must sign up for a Kupat Cholim, one of Israel’s public healthcare companies. Most costs are paid by the Kupat Cholim, or by co-payments at the time of service.
Each public healthcare plan in Israel provides the standard Health Basket and Medication Basket of services. That includes medical diagnosis and treatment, surgery, hospitalizations, treatment of chronic diseases, mental health care, addiction treatment, cancer care, and IVF treatments.
Much dental and optical care and other extras, such as choice of practitioner, are provided by supplemental Kupat Cholim insurance or paid for out of pocket.
Does Kupat Cholim Cover Dental, Optical, and More?
In Israel’s health system, the Kupat Cholim cover or subsidize many areas of care. The level of cover usually has three co-payment ranges for Israeli citizens, and a price for a patient from abroad. This list notes additional health care services, whether they are covered, and what they cost for a patient from abroad. Costs here are converted to US dollars.
- Dental: Dental is not included, but can be added as a supplement. A standard dental exam costs $60 to $90.
- Optical: Some Kupot Cholim cover eye surgery and contribute to vision aids. Again, vision care can be added as a supplement.
- Mental Health: Mental health services are included. The co-pay for a therapy session is around $10.
- Physical Therapy: Included: for a patient from abroad, this costs $60 to $80 per session.
- Alternative Care: Each Kupat Cholim provides some alternative care, such as reflexology and acupuncture, often with a co-pay. These services cost $75 to $250 independently.
- Prescription Drugs: Prescribed medications are supported by government subsidies, but you may need to make a co-payment. A prescribed antibiotic costs around $6.
How to Access & Receive Healthcare in Israel
Here is what visitors and expats need to know about navigating Israel’s healthcare system, especially in an emergency.
For Kupat Cholim Care, Register
Students and expats with visas can access Israel’s government healthcare system. They have options to register and pay to join Kupat Cholim. You can do so at Ben Gurion airport, online, or at a post office in Israel. When you sign up, you choose your plan, any sub-plans or supplements, and your specific clinic. You will then visit your specific clinic for your care.
For Expat Care, See A Private Doctor
Most visitors and foreigners are not covered by Kupat Cholim, which means they can’t go to a Kupat Cholim clinic. Instead, in Israel, they need to make an appointment to see a private doctor. A private doctor visit ranges from $80 to $300. Seeing a private specialist starts at $250 to $600.
Urgent Care and Emergency Rooms in Israel
If you need medical care urgently in Israel, you will choose between urgent care and emergency rooms.
Urgent care is for medical problems where you need treatment fast, but your condition is not life-threatening. If you are covered by a Kupat Cholim plan, your urgent care co-pay is usually covered with a co-pay, especially if you go to your recommended urgent care center. If you are not with a Kupat Cholim, you will pay out for your visit, between $90 and $150, more for prescriptions or treatments like an IV for dehydration.
Emergency rooms are for serious and life-threatening injuries. You must pay for your care there if you do not have a severe condition that gets an exemption. Examples of exempt conditions are fractures, dialysis, and hemophilia. If your condition is exempt, all fees will be covered by your Kupat Cholim. If you are not with a Kupat Cholim, you will have to pay, too, and the costs will be high, starting at $250.
When calling an ambulance in Israel, you must pay for the ambulance service. If you are insured by Kupat Cholim, you can get full or partial coverage, depending on the conditions.
Who is Eligible for Israeli Healthcare?
All Israeli citizens and official residents have a legal right to health care in Israel. New immigrants who already have immigration visas are eligible for Kupat Cholim cover immediately, too.
Foreigners in Israel for more than a short visit can sign up for a non-resident program with Kupat Cholim. Two examples are Maccabi’s Well-come Program and Meuhedet’s program for nonresident clients. Monthly fees for adult individuals range from to $115 to $450, depending on your age – very similar to many travel medical insurance programs.
Healthcare for Expats in Israel
For many visitors to Israel, their trip is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The city of Tel Aviv is popular with digital nomads. Young people often spend several months in Israel connecting with their heritage. Other travelers may be considering “making aliyah” – moving to Israel permanently. Those who do make aliyah, or who return to Israel after living abroad, may have to wait for Israeli healthcare while their immigration visas are processed.
All of these visitors, expats, and migrants can protect themselves in Israel with travel medical insurance.
Expat Insurance for Israel
Short-term visitors and digital nomads in Israel usually do best with travel medical insurance, which covers them both in and outside of Israel. Expatriates staying in Israel for longer will want to obtain international health insurance for longer-term coverage. This guarantees faster care, off the Kupat Cholim waiting lists. Forty percent of Israelis have private health insurance supplementing their Kupat Cholim plan to get faster and more reliable care.
International health insurance also supports care that expats need, like international medical records and repatriation costs. It helps manage the high costs of receiving private health services in Israel. And it lets you leave Israel and have treatment covered in another country.
The Best Health Insurance in Israel for US Citizens
Cigna Global Insurance Plan
- The flexibility to tailor a plan to suit your individual needs
- Access to Cigna Global’s trusted network of hospitals and doctors
- The convenience and confidence of 24/7/365 customer service
The Best Health Insurance in Israel for Non-US Expats
Xplorer Worldwide Medical Plan
- Premium Benefits, Coverage and Service
- Define your deductible and prescription benefits
- For Foreigners in the US or US citizens abroad