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Health Minister Resigns After Reform Bill Revoked

February 6, 1994

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Health Minister Haim Ramon resigned Sunday after Labor Party apparatchiks blocked his attempt to reform Israel’s health system.

″I told the Cabinet that I can no longer take responsibility for the health system,″ Ramon said on Israel radio. The resignation, made in writing and read out by Ramon at the weekly Cabinet session, goes into effect Tuesday.

Ramon’s proposal aimed at guaranteeing citizens basic medical services regardless of income or employment status.

″I am obligated to the voter, to the public and also to myself,″ Ramon said. ″If I did not do what I did today I would find it very hard to live with myself.″

Ramon’s plan easily passed the first of its required three votes in Parliament. But the Cabinet withdrew the proposal last week after the ruling Labor Party came under pressure from Histadrut, the trade union that represents about 60 percent of Israel’s workers.

Histadrut owns the country’s largest health-care organization, which relies on government handouts to stay afloat. Most of Histadrut’s officials are members of the Labor party.

Ramon’s plan would have cut subsidies to such organizations.

The plan called for Israelis to pay a health tax of 4.8 percent of their income. Many Israelis currently pay a similar amount, an average of about $650 annually, to various health funds that run clinics and fund hospitalization in some cases. But the funds are not required to accept all applicants, and an estimated 350,000 Israelis are uninsured.

The demise of the health bill was seen as a personal defeat for Ramon, a leader of Labor’s free market-oriented young guard, and a set back for efforts to reform still dominant socialist holdovers from Zionism’s early days, such as the Histadrut. But commentators also said his stance might help him in the struggle to take over the party once the current generation of leaders retires.

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