Israel - Dov Chernichovsky

  • Country: Israel
  • # Pages: 91
  • Publication Year: 1987
  • Type of Media: Mimeo


Life expectancy at birth in Israel in 2001 was 77.7 years for males and 81.6 years for females among Jews, and 74.5 and 77.8 years for males and females, respectively, among Israeli Arabs. In spite of vast improvements in health conditions of the two populations since Israel's statehood in 1948, persistent disparities in life expectancy between the two groups have challenged the Israeli socialized health care system. These disparities are influenced primarily by differences between the two population groups in infant and child mortality rates. This early study suggests that the distribution of life expectancy across localities in Israel reflects the distribution of those localities' socio-economic condition index (not including health and medical care), and the distribution of medical services. The positive association between life expectancy and the index is pronounced, however, only within the Jewish population but not among Arabs. While there may be no significant difference in life expectancy among Jews and Arabs living in poorer communities, there are fewer Arabs living in relatively affluent communities. Thus, persistent higher concentration of poverty among Arabs than among Jews has sufficed to maintain the gap in life expectancy between them. In addition, however, there are population-specific effects: wealth and education are more protective among Jews than among Arabs, while medical services are more protective among Arabs.

The conventional wisdom is that because at any time the aged cost more than the young, there is a positive relationship between aging and health care spending. It is hard, however, to find evidence that aging correlates positively with such spending. Intrigued by the puzzle, we account for the factors that contribute to changes of the age distribution of medical costs and their potential effect on aggregate cost. As changes in costs are not age neutral, the health system needs to facilitate a dynamic shift of resources from those whose relative cost rise less -- the young -- to those whose relative costs rise more -- the old. As there is an apparent market failure associated with uncertainty about growth in longevity (no market for 'death insurance'), the private market does not seem to effectively facilitate this shift. Aging, and its known correlates and antecedents produce a complex picture about the potential effect of aging on total cost of medical care in Israel. Shifting morbidity and mortality to older age can lower cost of care, all other things equal. Growth in incomes and insurance coverage are likely to increase use of care particularly amongst the old. Rising levels of education would have the opposite effect, but among the relatively young. The effect of a key element, technology, remains unknown. The Israeli experience also points to the advantages of a unified publicly financed health system with a timely allocation mechanism.