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Appeal for free medical treatment for all children

The Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) clinic in Tel Aviv provides free medical services for impoverished refugees and immigrants Tamar Dressler/IRIN
The Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) clinic in Tel Aviv provides free medical services for impoverished refugees and immigrants
Anya, a Filipino migrant worker, visits a free clinic regularly. It is the only option available to her and her two young sons. Despite working full-time, she cannot afford to pay US$90 a month for medical insurance.

“It is too expensive for me… I visit the free clinic; this is all I have,” she said waiting for her six-year-old to be examined by a paediatrician. Anya herself has no medical insurance.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an NGO, runs the clinic, providing free medical services for impoverished refugees and immigrants.

On 19 March it appealed to Israel's Supreme Court to include all children, regardless of status, in the National Health Insurance Law, allowing them free treatment.

According to PHR and other NGOs working with asylum-seekers and refugees in Israel, thousands of immigrant children are not considered "residents of Israel" under the law and are unable to receive health insurance, even though many were born in Israel.

It has been technically possible since 2001 to insure such children through the Meuchudet Health Fund, one of the leading health funds in Israel, but parents still face many problems: The insurance does not cover all medical fees and there are insufficient mechanisms for discounts for parents without adequate means.

National law

The Insurance Law stipulates that medical conditions present prior to the patient’s arrival in the country are not covered, and there is a mandatory six month waiting period before full medical care for children not born in Israel is granted - a stipulation NGOs dealing with refugees say is especially harmful to refugee children.

PHR free clinic manager Iman Aghbariyya told IRIN: “There are some 1,700 children currently insured with the Meuchedet Health Fund. They are children whose parents are able to pay the high monthly fees. The rest have no medical care except for what we can provide here at the clinic. Sometimes, when more complicated treatment such as operations is needed, we refer them to some hospitals we've managed to reach an agreement with to provide discounts for the children.”

In 2007 a parliamentary committee rejected a draft law to allow all children residing in Israel the right to health care regardless of their status, saying it would encourage “medical tourism”.

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