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18 Sivan 5760 - June 21, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Proposal to Grant Health Benefits to Beneficiaries of Religions Ministry Approved At First Reading

by Eliezer Rauchberger

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.

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