“There is great pressure on the HMOs by the Health Ministry to make mental health services accessible to the haredi population. They have more power than the HMOs, given the haredi lobby, and they use it. The agreement with Bayit Cham is different from the one with the community mental health clinics, and that’s a result of those same pressures.”
Haredi Mentally Ill Get Extra Levels Of Privacy Non-Haredim Do Not Receive
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The Bayit Cham chain of private mental health clinics primarily treats haredim. To do so, it promises its patients near complete secrecy – something people treated in Israel’s public health system don’t get. This is an issue because Bayit Cham is reportedly paid by the quasi-governmental HMOs in the public health system to treat their haredi patients, meaning haredi patients are secretly being given a much higher level of privacy than non-haredi patients are.
In a tape of a patient’s conversation with Bayit Cham’s hotline obtained by Ha’aretz, the hotline tells the patient, “you don’t need any referral [from your HMO] You sign here on Form 17 – that’s the request we send to the HMO [with your name removed and only the last several digits of your national identity number on the form to serve as your identity].”
The caller tells the hotline he “has a problem with my family doctor knowing about this.”
The hotline operator replies, “no information is passed on. That’s unique to Bayit Cham, that no information is transferred to the HMOs. We request reimbursement from them at the highest levels of the HMOs.”
Bayit Cham runs eight clinics and is headed by haredi Rabbi Arie Munk, who has previously told haredi media no patient information is shared by Bayit Cham with the HMOs.
But when asked about that by Ha’aretz, Munk backtracked.
“Factually speaking, only the necessary information is transferred. The only information that reaches the primary care physician at the HMO is information about medications and any fears about suicide,” Munk said.
Normally a patient would have to go to his local mental health clinic, get a Form 17 there, and fill it out before being treated or referred elsewhere.
But the HMOs all reportedly reached a deal with Bayit Cham that allows Bayit Cham to circumvent that process and hide patient information from all but the most senior HMO managers.
“There is great pressure on the HMOs by the Health Ministry to make mental health services accessible to the haredi population. They have more power than the HMOs, given the haredi lobby, and they use it,” a senior HMO official told Ha’aretz. “The agreement with Bayit Cham is different from the one with the community mental health clinics, and that’s a result of those same pressures.”
Officially, the HMO’s all claim the agreements with private providers, including Bayit Cham, all meet Health Ministry guidelines. But they don’t appear to, at least in Bayit Cham’s case.
The Health Ministry went even further.
“When we discussed the situation with the CEO [of Bayit Cham], we were told that as opposed to what was claimed, the psychiatric information is in fact sent to the primary care physician in the HMO according to the guidelines,” a ministry spokesperson reportedly said. But this appears to be false.
The current Minister of Health is Rabbi Yaakov Litzman of the Ashkenazi haredi United Torah Judaism Party. He has held the top position in the ministry for much of the past decacde, with a short two-year break during the previous government when the haredi parties were not part of the governing coalition.
Many officials inside the HMO system would like to see universal privacy rules, although perhaps not quite as strict as what Bayit Cham patients now have, be made universal.