Both Jewish and Arab citizens of the state are entitled by law to health services subject to the National Health Insurance Law of 1995, which established the state's responsibility to provide health services for all residents of the country. The Law stipulated that a standardized portfolio of medical services (including hospitalization) will be supplied by four health-care organizations, at a relatively low fee collected by the National Insurance Institute. Prior to the enactment of this law, some 190,000 inhabitants, mostly Arabs, had no health insurance coverage at all. By 1997 almost all Arab citizens (99.1 %) and most Jews (88.3%) had a regular family physician, a significant increase from 1995.
There are significant comparative differences in health indicators between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel. For example:
- Life expectancy among Arab citizens rose significantly since the establishment of the state, but the gap between Jews and Arabs increased.
- Among Arab men life expectancy today is around 77 compared with around 81 among Jewish men (a 4 years gap, vs. a 1.4 years gap in the 80s);
- Among Arab women life expectancy is around 81, compared with around 84 among Jewish women (a 3 years gap, vs. a 2.3 years gap in the 80s).
- From among the 122 Magen David Adom stations throughout Israel, only 11 (less than 10%) are located in Arab localities.
- The rate of at-home accidents and accidental deaths among Arab children is significantly higher than among Jewish children. In 2013, 50% of all children who died of accidents in Israel were Arab (although Arab children make up around 25% of Israel’s childhood population) and accidental injuries among Arab children were 3.3 times more than among Jewish children.
- Infant mortality rates (up to one year of age) are conventionally used as an important indicator of health status. The rate of infant mortality (per 1000 newborns) has declined dramatically within Arab society, yet infant mortality among Arabs is more than twice—and among Bedouin more than three times–that of Jewish infants.
- The percentage of adults living with disabilities is significantly higher among Israel’s Arab population (14%) than in the population at large (5%).
These differences are often attributed to the overall lower socio-economic status of the Arab population, which is correlated with substandard infrastructure and conditions in Arab localities and neighborhoods (including three times the poverty rate than Jewish society, insufficient access to medical facilities, lower safety infrastructure and awareness, higher population density, etc.) and cultural-behavioral differences.There are a number of significant efforts among civil society organizations, local leadership and the government to address health gaps.
From another angle, health services is an area of substantial success, advancement and integration of Arab professionals in the Israeli labor market with numerous Arab citizens comprising medical and paramedical Arab staff, including department heads in major hospitals and recently the first Arab hospital manager (at Nahariya Hospital).