On 9 Sivan, the Knesset Labor and Welfare Committee approved
the first reading of a proposal by MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz
granting a series of reductions in fees for health services
to families receiving supplementary income from the Religious
Affairs Ministry. This would be similar to reductions made
for families benefiting from supplementary income from the
National Insurance Agency.
The proposal became necessary after an amendment included
earlier in the 1999 Arrangements Law, which was supposed to
provide the same thing, was interpreted in an unduly narrow
way, granting exemptions to the father of the family only --
not to his children. The new amendment adds the explicit
phrase, "his wife and children."
When presenting the law to the committee, Rabbi Ravitz
explained the unreasonableness of the current interpretation.
Noting that the amendment was transferred to the Law of
Arrangements for 1999 when he was the chairman of the Finance
Committee, he said, "I never thought that we would have to
propose such a law. We relied on the existing clause and on
simple logic." He stressed, too, that the Government has
accepted his position and supports the new law.
Rabbi Ravitz added: "A healthy society is obligated to
provide its citizens with health services. If there are poor
families among us, they should be exempt from payment for
these services. This is a humane law." Representatives of the
Health Ministry also support the proposed law.
In order to receive supplemental income ("negative income
tax") from the Religious Affairs Ministry, it is not enough
to be an avreich who is studying but the wife must
also not be employed and the avreich has to have at
least three children. Thus there is no logic behind awarding
the reduced fees only to the avreich and not to his
children. Also, the supplemental income awarded through the
Religious Affairs Ministry parallels the supplemental income
awarded through National Insurance, in which there is no such
division within families. Thus, the expectation was that once
the amendment recognized the eligibility of the
avreich for reduced health fees, it would naturally
include the rest of the family as well.
Although Rabbi Ravitz did not cite it as such, some observers
maintained that the narrow interpretation was another case of
discrimination against chareidim.