In Israel, Romney flubs on health care

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In yet another foot-in-mouth blunder, Mitt Romney today praised Israel's health care system for its financial efficiency, suggesting the U.S. should follow its example. Apparently Romney was unaware that Israel has mandated universal national health insurance.

"Do you realize what health care spending is as a percentage of the G.D.P. in Israel? Eight percent," Romney told his Israeli audience, with right-wing U.S. casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson at his side. "You spend eight percent of G.D.P. on health care. You're a pretty healthy nation. We spend 18 percent of our G.D.P. on health care, 10 percentage points more." He continued, "We have to find ways - not just to provide health care to more people, but to find ways to fund and manage our health care costs."

Is Romney a closet socialist, or just plain ignorant?

A report in the Jewish Daily Forward notes that in Israel, "The government's role is central as both funder and regulator. Yet, going by many indexes of health outcomes, the result in terms of quality of care is often better - and definitely cheaper than in the U.S."

Health care in Israel is administered by nonprofit health maintenance organizations, most of which were set up by labor unions even before the Israeli state was established.

Israel's 1995 National Health Insurance Law made membership in one of the four existing Health Maintenance Organizations compulsory for all Israeli citizens. It also established a uniform benefits package for all citizens, and certain services were brought under the direct administration of the national government. In addition, the law set up a system of public funding for health care services by means of a progressive health tax.

Currently many Israelis are fighting the Netanyahu government's efforts to cut government health care funding. That includes the heads of the Israel Medical Association, national medical societies and patients' rights organizations, along with leading medical economists.

Photo: Once again, it seems, Romney made a big blunder.    Alex Brandon/AP

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