Considering moving to Israel? Mazel tov!

Whether you relocate to the cultural center of Tel Aviv or to beautiful Haifa on the slopes of Mount Carmel, you’re bound to have a fantastic time.

But before you look into the nitty-gritty details of moving to Israel, it’s worth checking out the country’s healthcare system. Will state healthcare be right for you and your family, or will you need to take out private medical cover? Is the system similar to that of the US? And what exactly does it include?

We have all the answers waiting for you further down this page.

If you've already decided that private health insurance is right for you, we recommend Cigna. It currently helps more than 95 million customers all over the world, so Cigna has the experience and expertise to get you just the right cover.

Start building a customized plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.

Israeli healthcare: key statistics

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Jerusalem in Israel

Beautiful architecture in one of the oldest cities in the world – Jerusalem

How does Israel’s healthcare system work? 

Israel provides universal coverage to all citizens and permanent residents as part of its National Health Insurance Law.

Still, there’s a lot of choice when it comes to healthcare plans in Israel.

Residents can pick from four competing nonprofit healthcare plansClalit, Leumit, Maccabi, and Meuhedet – which all provide a set benefits package. Each organization operates its own medical facilities, but members are allowed to switch between schemes once a year (on specific dates).

Under Israel’s National Health Insurance (NHI) plan, everyone has the right to access all services in the benefits package, and all four health plans are legally obligated to cover anyone who applies for insurance – as long as they’re a resident or an Israeli citizen.

Residents also have the right to pick which doctor or specialist they’d like to see, as long as they are working within the network.

The NHI benefits package covers:

  • Hospital care
  • Primary and specialty care
  • Some prescription drugs (users will usually have to make copayments)
  • Certain preventive services (check-ups, patient counseling, screenings, etc.)
  • Mental health care
  • Dental care for children and anyone aged 75 or older
  • Diagnostic exams
  • Maternity care
  • Allied medical care (physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nutrition, speech therapy, etc.)
  • Some durable medical equipment (wheelchairs, orthopedic aids, etc.)
  • Palliative care (optimizing quality of life) and hospice services, to a limited extent

Means-tested long-term care, infant screenings and vaccinations, and postpartum care are all excluded from the NHI scheme, but are covered by the Ministry of Health.

Private medical cover – also known as ‘supplementary’ or ‘voluntary’ insurance – is also offered by each of the four funds. These private plans tend to be more comprehensive, are tailored to individuals, and can provide services not included in the state package (such as dental care for adults, optometry, and hearing aids).

How much do residents pay for insurance?

Israel’s healthcare system is funded by taxes and government payments, with employees and self-employed people contributing 3.1% of their monthly income (up to a maximum of NIS ₪5,804 [$1,648]).

This monthly contribution is automatically deducted from employees’ salaries, pensioners’ monthly wages, and unemployed peoples’ benefits. Self-employed people, however, need to arrange the payments themselves.

Married women, people younger than 22, and anyone excluded from the NHI are exempt from paying health tax.

Who is eligible for the NHI plan?

Israeli residents and citizens can access the NHI system, but there are a few exceptions, including:

  • Soldiers – they receive healthcare directly from the army
  • Inmates – they receive care from the Israel Prison Service
  • Documented and undocumented foreign workers – they are enrolled into private insurance programs by their employers
  • Undocumented migrants
  • Temporary residents
  • Tourists

Is healthcare free in Israel?

Yes – the standard care included in the NHI benefits package is free for everyone that pays health insurance tax.

There are no copayment fees for preventive care, cancer screenings, primary care visits, or hospital admissions, and no quarterly or annual deductibles (a set amount you pay before your health insurance term begins).

However, copayments are required for attending specialist visits and acquiring prescription drugs – although some vulnerable groups might be able to bypass these fees with discounts or caps on user charges.

We’ve outlined the exceptions below:

ServiceExempt from copaymentsEligible for a monthly pay cap
Specialist care and allied consultations•Women older than 64 and men older than 67 receiving income support benefits


•Individuals with severe illnesses


•Children in low-income families


•Children receiving mobility
allowance
•Chronically ill people – monthly cap is NIS ₪311-377 ($82-100)


•Chronically ill people older than retirement age who receive income support benefits – monthly cap is NIS ₪155-188 ($41-50)

Some people are also exempt from copayments on prescriptions, including Holocaust survivors and people with severe diseases.

The Israeli government also provides discounts on prescriptions for some vulnerable groups, which we’ve outlined below:

ServiceDiscounts on paymentsMonthly payment caps
Prescriptions•People older than 65 receiving income support benefits – 50% discount


•Anyone older than 72 – 55% discount


•World War II veterans – 75% discount
•People with chronic illness – monthly cap of NIS ₪318 ($85)


•People older than 65 with chronic illness – monthly cap of NIS ₪159 ($42)


•People with chronic illness or disability – monthly cap of NIS ₪79.50 ($21)
Tel Aviv in Israel

City lights illuminate Tel Aviv – the cultural hub of Israel

Quality of healthcare in Israel

Overall, the Israeli healthcare system is pretty good, which is certainly reflected in its 90% patient satisfaction rate. In fact, according to Mark Britnell, Chairman and Partner of the Global Health Practice at KPMG, Israel has “one of the most progressive primary care services in the world.”

In 2019, the Lancet’s worldwide effective healthcare coverage index gave Israel an impressive score of 81 out of 100 points – just one point behind the US.

Israel’s success mainly comes down to its competitive market, tight regulatory controls, and accessible primary care services.

Despite this success, the share of those with supplementary insurance increased by about 60% between 1999 and 2012, with almost four out of five Israelis now holding this additional type of insurance. 

Experts suggest this trend mainly boils down to the waiting times people tend to experience on state healthcare, which fluctuate massively across the country.

For example, a report recently proved that patients waiting for knee replacement surgery in Haifa experience an average wait time of three weeks, compared to over a year on the waiting list in less populated areas in the South.

The same goes for waiting times in built-up areas compared to more isolated regions. The study found that waiting times in Jerusalem were about 28% shorter than the national average, while people in the South experience queues 44% longer than the national average.

How does Israel compare to the US?

 USIsrael
Health spending10,948 (US dollars per capita)2,903 (US dollars per capita)
Hospital beds2.8 (per 1,000 habitants)2.9 (per 1,000 habitants)
Life expectancy76.3 years81 years
Doctors 2.6 (per 1,000 habitants)3.3 (per 1,000 habitants)

Data from the OECD

Healthcare in Israel for foreigners

Expats will be pleased to hear that they can access Israel's excellent healthcare, as long as they’re registered as a resident.

On the other hand, non-residents have to access healthcare through private medical cover, either offered by one of the four insurance companies in the country or by an employer.

But if you’ve relocated to Israel under the Law of Return and are not working, you are still entitled to a year of state health insurance (with some exceptions).

Do I need health insurance in Israel?

Yes, all residents and citizens need to be covered by health insurance, which is made easier by the government’s NHI plan. According to the Commonwealth Fund, in 2018, 95% of people in Israel were covered by the NHI.

Although Israel’s state healthcare covers a lot of services free of charge, or at a very low cost, some people get private insurance on top of this – a wise choice for anyone experiencing ongoing illnesses.

With private health insurance in Israel, you can make sure you’re covered for things that aren’t included in the NHI scheme, such as dental care, certain prescriptions, and alternative medicines. Private health insurance can also include a more extensive range of surgeries, therapies, overseas travel insurance, and private specialist consultations.

That’s why, in 2016, 84% of Israel’s adult population was enrolled in an NHI private insurance plan, and 57% were enrolled in a commercial private insurance plan.

If private health insurance sounds like a great option for you, why not make sure you get the best deal for you and your family by building a customized plan and receiving a free quote?

Benefits of private medical cover in Israel

In Israel, private medical insurance can offer a few things that state care cannot.

Unlike in other countries, the difference between public and private care in Israel is not in the quality of care you will receive.

Instead, it’s more of a difference in comfort. You can expect access to more amenities with private insurance – for example, your hospital stays might include access to the internet and television, and you’ll receive better food. You’re also more likely to experience shorter waiting times with private medical insurance.

How much does health insurance cost in Israel?

The average cost for a private health insurance plan is roughly $3,096 (NIS ₪9,964) each year. 

However, this fluctuates a lot, depending on:

  • The provider you choose
  • Your level of coverage
  • Your age (the higher, the more expensive)
  • The area of cover (i.e. are other areas required in the coverage, in addition to Israel?)
  • Whether you have any pre-existing conditions

If you’d like to be covered in other countries as well as Israel, you should look into international medical health insurance (IPMI). On average, IPMI in Israel will set you back roughly $4,799 for an individual plan, or $14,146 for a family plan. 

Want a better idea of how much private medical insurance will cost you before you move to Israel? Get a free quote from Cigna today by building yourself a customized plan.

Advice for expats moving to Israel

And there you have it – everything you need to know about healthcare in Israel.

Hopefully you’re feeling a bit more confident about what will work best for you whilst you’re out there. Private health insurance certainly has its benefits for expats with ongoing or serious health issues.

But if you’re unsure about which option to go for right now, at least you have one of the world’s most impressive state healthcare systems to fall back on.