Medical insurance is a necessity for everyone. Getting to know how Israel’s healthcare system works is the first step toward making sure you have sufficient coverage.
What is Kupat Cholim?
Bituach Leumi, Israel’s National Insurance Institute, provides medical coverage through health care providers known as kupot cholim. If you are an Israeli residing in Israel, Bituach Leumi will automatically cover the cost of your kupat cholim services. Olim, who are eligible for Bituach Leumi benefits after making Aliyah, are also granted complete access to kupat cholim services.
Returning residents and temporary residents are eligible for Bituach Leumi coverage after a designated waiting period. However, they will not be eligible for any kupat cholim services during this time. Therefore, it is critical that they arrange private insurance coverage until they are accepted as Bituach Leumi members.
Students will not be covered by Bituach Leumi until they have established residency in Israel (see our guides on Bituach Leumi). They may be eligible for limited kupat cholim services on a tourist plan (see below).
Kupat Cholim Options
Those who are Bituach Leumi members can choose between the four kupot: Meuhedet, Macabi, Leumit, Clalit. Meuchedet and Maccabi are the only two kupot who currently offer a “Tourist Plan ” for those who do not yet have Bituach Leumi membership.
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Kupat Cholim for Foreign Citizens
Signing up for Kupat Cholim
If you are a student, you can and should sign up for kupat cholim as soon as you arrive in Israel. You will be registered as a tourist and will be charged accordingly. Your registration status will be reflected in your ID number, which will begin with the number 9. Signing up early means getting covered faster, especially with the processing time taken into account.
What to Bring
- Credit card
- Marriage license or kesubah, if applicable
- Application form, available at the clinic at which you register
- Documentation of any medical history or current condition, including pregnancy, in case it is requested
- Student letter from an educational institution (to qualify for student rate)
Where to register
You can register for membership in most kupat cholim branches.
For Meuhedet registration in Jerusalem, foreigners must go to the office opposite the Mir yeshiva on Beis Yisroel 2.
Office hours: Sunday – Thursdat 10 AM- 6 PM
Phone: 026503392 or 026503219 Fax: 03-7982355. Email: TouristJer@meuhedet.co.il .
For Maccabi registration, visit Maccabi’s clinic in Ramat Eshkol on Paran 13. Speak to either Mrs. Gitty Weinbaum at 055-557-9445 (between the hours of 8:30 am – 12 pm Sunday – Thursday) or to R’ Shimon Klein at 052-761-1203 or email@example.com .
Tell the secretary that you want to register with the kupah and she will begin the process.
Joining Kupat Cholim Without Bituach Leumi
When you join a kupat cholim as a non-resident, without Bituach Leumi, there are several drawbacks:
Coverage is incomplete
The kupah will not cover the cost of certain hospital stays, including pregnancy- and birth-related hospitalizations. Additionally, coverage for procedures that are not regularly performed in one of their own clinics can often be denied. This applies even to those who purchase supplementary insurance through the kupah (see below).
Pre-existing medical conditions
Those with preexisting medical conditions are often not accepted.
You should be working toward acquiring Bituach Leumi by ensuring that your status is legally established as soon as possible; i.e. obtaining an A-category visa or finalizing your returning resident/Oleh process. See our guide on Bituach Leumi for further information.
Once You Have Bituach Leumi
Once registered with Bituach Leumi, your kupat cholim will automatically be updated with your new status. This also applies to those who make Aliyah from within Israel after having joined a kupat cholim as a non-citizen.
Within the next few weeks, new kupat cholim cards will arrive in the mail bearing your new Bituach Leumi 77 numbers.
Call your clinic to be sure your old account was properly merged with your new one. Please note: fees for supplemental insurance, like Meuhedet C, will continue to be charged as before (see below).
Registering a New Baby
For Israeli citizens born in Israel, kupat cholim registration occurs automatically. An Israeli baby born outside Israel must first be registered on his or her parents’ teudot zehut before he or she can be registered with kupat cholim.
For foreign citizens, kupat cholim registration will not happen automatically and it is vital that your child be covered immediately should the need arise. This must be done before the child turns one month old. Therefore, it is imperative to notify your kupat cholim about your new child as soon as the child is discharged from the hospital. If a child is re-hospitalized shortly after birth and is not yet covered by kupat cholim, the hospital stay will not be covered, even retroactively. Moreover, kupat cholim does not accept foreign applicants who have been hospitalized within the last five days — meaning that a baby re-hospitalized after birth must wait until five days after the hospitalization to apply for kupat cholim.
If you are a foreign citizen, you must present your child’s michtav shichrur (hospital discharge letter) at your kupat cholim clinic when registering.
If you want your baby covered by supplementary insurance, make sure the kupah secretary activates it while you are speaking to her. Neither Israeli nor non-Israeli children are automatically registered for supplementary insurance — even if the entire family is already paying for that plan. Such a mistake can cause great aggravation later, especially since many benefits require a waiting period before eligibility kicks in.
Meuhedet offers foreign citizens up to six months of free coverage for newborns. Be sure to take care of getting your new baby a passport, visa and Bituach Leumi in as timely a fashion as possible. Waiting too long before getting your child a visa can cause difficulties registering for Bituach Leumi.
If your child will be a Meuhedet member, he or she should be registered with Pinchas Starick, manager of the branch opposite Mir yeshiva.
If a baby’s teudat shichrur lists a medical condition or even a suspicion of one, kupat cholim acceptance may depend upon registering the child for Bituach Leumi first.. Additionally, foreign citizens who give birth abroad must present a letter from a pediatrician in Israel connected to the kupah stating that their baby is in good health in order for the child to join kupat cholim before he or she is a Bituach Leumi member.
If your baby is denied kupat cholim registration due to a medical condition, contact Chaim V’Chessed for assistance in obtaining Bituach Leumi registration as soon as possible.
Jaundice: When discharge papers say that a baby’s bilirubin must be checked, parents can have the baby checked and bring Meuhedet a signed and stamped letter with the results. If results are lower than 10, or higher than 10 but lower than the level at discharge, parents can present the latest results at the Meuhedet clinic and register. (A letter from a mohel that states that the bris was done on time is also acceptable.) If bilirubin results have not improved since hospital discharge, the baby will need to be re-tested until results show an improvement.
Once registered with a kupah, the child will receive a temporary number beginning with 99. Once the child is on Bituach Leumi, he or she will receive a new permanent number, beginning with 77. Be sure that his old and new kupat cholim accounts are merged, as explained above..
It is highly advisable to apply for supplemental medical insurance, in addition to the basic plan provided by kupat cholim. This can be arranged either through the local kupah clinic.
Kupot cholim offer their members supplementary insurance programs (bituchim mashlimim). This additional coverage, paid for directly by members to the kupot, includes services and products beyond the basic set of services. These may include a wider selection of medications; consultations with professionals outside of the health plan; second opinions; dental procedures; private operations; surgeries abroad; emergency care; complementary medicine such as chiropractic therapy and homeopathy; and other special bonuses and discounts. After registering for supplementary insurance, there are waiting periods before you can access certain services, even though you must start paying in full immediately .
It is highly advisable to register for a supplementary insurance program. By signing up promptly to both a basic and a supplementary plan, you can begin waiting periods for important medical procedures and assistance. The cost of full coverage insurance in Eretz Yisroel is negligible compared to basic plans in other countries. Children especially stand to gain from the benefits of supplementary insurance. Be proactive for your family’s future health and stay on the safe side.
Please note: supplemental insurance is always paid for out of pocket, even by members of Bituach Leumi.
Meuhedet Supplementary Insurance Terms
Meuhedet Adif – basic complementary insurance package
Meuhedet C – highest level of insurance offered by Meuhedet
Meuhedet Zahav – supportive nursing insurance
Maccabi Supplementary Insurance Terms
Maccabi Zahav – basic complementary insurance package
Maccabi Sheli – highest level of insurance offered by Maccabi
Maccabi Siudi – supportive nursing insurance
Your kupat cholim account can be managed online. With online access, you can make payments, book appointments, and view lab work results and all your medical records. To sign up for the service, visit any clinic and request activation of your online account. You’ll receive a temporary username and password. Each adult over 18 has his own account. Children under age 18 will appear under their parent’s account. Once they pass that age, they need to activate their own accounts.
Switching Kupot Cholim
Members can switch to another kupat cholim twice in a 12 month period, beginning from the time they registered. Switching kupot does not affect one’s coverage. This includes supplemental insurance. However, there may be a waiting period for new services. Details should be clarified with the new kupah.
How to Switch Kupot
Switching kupot can be done at the Doar (advance appointment required). Bring along your passport and visa. You will have to complete a form and pay a fee of 15 NIS.
One can submit their request only during one of six transfer dates. The transfer takes effect at a later date, see the chart below.
After making a request at the Doar, you must go to a branch of the new kupat cholim you are joining to complete the registration process. Bring along your photo ID (teudat zehut or passport and visa), marriage license, Bituach Leumi number and means of payment.
Transfer of Medical Information
Upon switching kupot cholim, the old kupah is required to transfer all essential medical information about the member to the new kupah. This will be done free of charge.
After both kupot cholim receive notification that the member is switching funds, both are required to notify him by direct mail of his rights to receive a summary of his medical information in one of the following ways:
- Directly from the clinic.
- Via registered mail.
- Via email.
- Download it from the kupat cholim’s website using a username and password.
The member can also choose whether the information should be transferred directly from the old kupah to the new one or whether it should be transferred through him.
Ramifications on Supplementary Insurance and Long-Term Care (Si’udi) Rights
When switching from one kupah to the other, one should clarify with the new kupah whether there is an exemption from the waiting period for benefits covered by the supplementary insurance plan. Regarding Long-Term Care policies (bituach si’udi) – in order to receive this coverage from the new kupah, one must provide the proper documentation within 180 days of joining. Coverage by the new kupah is not automatic.