Should Palestinian children with one Israeli resident parent be included in the health insurance scheme? Court says yes, state says “not justified”.
Under the National Health Insurance Law 5754-1994, every Israeli resident is entitled to health services, yet, in practice, many children in East Jerusalem are unable to enjoy this right. Health services are provided to persons who are registered in the Israeli population registry, but unlike all other children who are automatically entitled to be registered and receive an ID number at birth, children who have only one registered parent are not, and their registration process takes years and involves red-tape and foot-dragging. HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual has been fighting
for years to have the state recognize these children’s right to national health benefits from birth to adulthood, irrespective of their registration in the population registry.
On July 2 2013, HaMoked appealed
a Jerusalem District Labor Court ruling
that stipulated national health coverage eligibility was contingent on the child’s registration in the population registry (only one of the child’s parents was registered in the Israeli population registry). The court was considering 22 claims made on behalf of children whose right to health insurance coverage had been denied, most of them between the ages of one and nine. In its appeal HaMoked argued that the right to health coverage originates in the National Health Insurance Law 5454-1994
, rather than in an arrangement, which was validated as a judgment in HCJ 2100/99
, under which the National Insurance Institute (NII) began providing health coverage for children who have no ID number from birth to 18 months. In early 2012, the cut off age was pushed forward to 30 months, in order to give families enough time to prove that they had fulfilled residency requirements for two years, which is the minimum required for registering the child of an Israeli resident in the population registry.
While HaMoked focused on the origin for these children’s right to health coverage
, the National Labor Court, which heard the appeal, turned its attention to the source of the power to determine residency
for purposes of the National Health Insurance Law. The court ruled that in the case of persons who are not registered in the population registry, it is the Ministry of Interior (rather than the National Insurance Institute) that is competent to determine residency and eligibility for health coverage. This decision subjects children’s social rights (which are under the purview of the National Insurance Institute) to confirmation of their residency status (under the purview of the Ministry of Interior), despite the fact that these are two separate issues and residency for purposes of the National Health Insurance Law is distinct from residency as per the Ministry of Interior.
HaMoked added that the NII’s demand to subject health coverage eligibility to registration in the population registry is motivated by extraneous considerations and defies both the law and natural justice, in that it severely undermines efforts made by resident parents to care for their children’s health and welfare. Moreover, the NII’s policy constitutes a breach of Israel’s obligation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In response to the appeal, the state argued that the eligibility of children (up to age 30 months only) for health coverage “does not originate in the Law, but rather in the Respondent’s consent, given as part of the proceedings before the High Court of Justice”. The state also said that it continues to honor this consent “beyond legal requirement
”, insisting that these children are not residents and therefore “ineligible for health insurance coverage”.In a hearing
held on September 22, 2014, the court questioned the state and asked to know “why should children whose parents have no ties to the country, for instance the children of migrant workers, fair any better and be eligible for certain health services that children who have one parent who is registered in the country’s population registry are not eligible for during the probationary period
”? The court alluded to the fact that children of migrant workers receive health services under an alternative insurance scheme. Palestinian children of residents are not included in this scheme as the state maintains that it is not “designed for children without status during the interim period”. The court suggested the state apply this scheme to Palestinian children with a resident parent who “has begun the process of regularizing their status vis-à-vis the population registry, and has yet to complete it”.
It is important to note that the solution the court suggested involves resident parents’ buying additional health insurance for their unregistered children – on top of the national insurance levy they already pay for themselves and their registered children. Moreover, despite the short term improvement this compromise may produce, in principle, the solution is problematic, as it sees the state treating Palestinian children with true ties to the country as foreigners, harming their rights in the long run.
On November 4, 2015, the state rejected the court’s suggestion saying “there is no justification for a departure from existing policy on this issue. The current legal situation with respect to health coverage eligibility for minors with one Israeli resident parent who are in the process of receiving residency status must remain as it is”.
The appeal remains pending.