HaMoked issues a position paper on health insurance for children of East Jerusalem residents: it is essential to implement the health insurance arrangement for children with at least one resident parent, according to the state's undertaking before the HCJ and the National Health Insurance Law and in light of human and basic rights
In a position paper
, sent to the National Insurance Institute (NII), the Interior Ministry and the Justice Ministry in anticipation of their upcoming hearings on the subject, HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, asserts that the entitlement to health insurance of children who have only one parent who is a permanent resident and has NII health insurance coverage, is enshrined in the National Health Insurance Law 5754-1994, and applies even when the minor child, who lives with his Israeli-resident parent, has not yet been listed in the population registry.
The bureaucratic registration process involves two main authorities – the NII and the Interior Ministry. The NII is responsible for listing the child as a national-health insured, irrespective of the Interior Ministry's responsibility as to the registrations in the population registry. Unlike children with two resident parents, children with only one resident parent do not receive identity numbers at birth. The Interior Ministry claims that the reason for this is the need to evaluate the children's residency before they are listed in the population registry. Therefore the resident parent must appear at the Interior Ministry and arrange for the child's registration in the population registry, which is a protracted procedure. As the procedure for registration and identification number issuance at the Interior Ministry is slow, the NII meanwhile issues a temporary number to the child, to enable the health insurance coverage he is entitled to by law.
Until 1999, HaMoked received many complaints concerning East-Jerusalem children with one resident parent, who remained without health insurance coverage while the issuance of their temporary numbers continued for many weeks or months, due to the NII's protracted bureaucracy. In many cases, HaMoked was contacted by parents whose children had been denied urgent and vital medical care because they had not yet been given temporary numbers and were refused treatment by the hospitals for lack of health insurance.
In 2001, following a petition by HaMoked
and other human rights organizations to the High Court Justice (HCJ), an expedited procedure for issuing temporary identification numbers by the NII was formulated. Under the arrangement, endorsed by the court
, a child of an Israeli resident - who is himself covered by national health insurance, would be issued a temporary number within a week from birth and when urgent medical treatment is required– immediately.
Through the years, the NII has attempted – and still does – to erode the HCJ arrangement. Although the arrangement refers to "children" with no age limit, in 2003, the NII began arguing that it applies only to babies under age one, and stopped issuing temporary numbers – and the entailed health insurance – to children over 12 months old. Temporary numbers were given to these older children subject to an application to the Interior Ministry for their registration. HaMoked protested without success against this restrictive procedure. In 2009, the NII published a new procedure, whereby the temporary numbers of children who turn 12 months (or 18 months at most) are revoked and their insurance is stopped, (unless a "still pending" reply from the Interior Ministry is produced, in which case termination of health insurance is deferred for 90 days). Following this procedure, the NII refuses to issue temporary numbers for children older than 12 months, even if an application for their registration has been filed.
As a result of this non-compliance with the conditions of the HCJ arrangement, in the past year, over 15 claims, filed by HaMoked, have been pending in the Regional Labor Court, concerning temporary numbers and health insurance. One such claim concerns a 5-year-old child who has a congenital heart defect, who has an Israeli-resident mother and a father from the West Bank. He was born in the USA, and has been living with his family in East Jerusalem since 2008. Upon settling in Israel, the mother followed the Interior Ministry's regulations to have him listed in the population registry; the NII issued him with a temporary number and he gained health insurance coverage. In 2010, his physician determined that the child must undergo a coronary catheterization; however, when the mother arrived at the health fund clinic, she realized that the NII – following the unilateral alteration of the procedure – terminated her child's health insurance, without prior notice or hearing. Only after the family filed a claim
through HaMoked, did the NII "concede" to restore the child's temporary number and health insurance; thus could he undergo the urgent medical procedure.
HaMoked argues that the NII policy - whereby children's health insurance depends on their being listed in the population registry – not only constitutes a blatant unilateral violation of the HCJ arrangement, it also blatantly ignores the principle of interpretation that should be applied to the text – that of the human rights perspective. As part of the right to life and bodily integrity, the right to medical services is a basic right. A revocation of this right is liable to cause grave and irreversible harm. Besides its direct violation of the right to health, the NII also violates the rights of the children of Israeli residents to equality. HaMoked asserts that the NII’s policy is unreasonable and disproportionate. It is unacceptable that a minor child would be ineligible for health insurance, at the same time that one of his parents, with whom he lives in Israel, is a recognized resident, covered by national health insurance.
Furthermore, added to the draconian NII procedures are the difficulties imposed by the Interior Ministry on the registration of Palestinian children from East Jerusalem, not least for those with only one resident parent. Thus, after filling all the requirements for the child's registration by the Interior Ministry – a seemingly straightforward procedure of informing the ministry of the child's birth – the parent finds himself faced by a protracted, complicated and exhausting process, which involves repeated appeals, submitting numerous documents and often, seeking legal assistance and taking legal action.
HaMoked emphasizes that under the law, the right to health services is no way dependent on being listed in the population registry, and that the absence of registration cannot serve to justify the denial of health services. The proper arrangement is that a child with only one resident parent, is entitled to health insurance from birth and until his residency status is established, or until he receives an identity number from the Interior Ministry – without any time restriction. Such an arrangement would conform with both the HCJ undertaking and the National Health Insurance Law, and would respect human and basic rights.