Rights, laws and regulations – on health care, welfare, disability, residency status – a long list of rules, always in Hebrew, always changing.
Not all the changes are in residents’ favor. However, our job – or Atta’a’s job – is not to judge, but to explain. Explain how the new rules and regulations are different than what people were used to. How these changes can affect people’s everyday lives. And what can be done and to whom to turn to try and right injustices. Often, much can be cleared up with explanations in non-legal language, or with help in filling out forms and collecting documentation.
Toward that goal, Atta’a holds a range of public community workshops on a variety of subjects, to help explain these new rights and regulations. One such workshop was held on last Thursday, December 29 in the Shuafat Refugee Camp, and another was recently held at the new community center in Al-Thori (Abu Tor, on December 5). There have recently been changes regarding regulations of Israeli medical care, based on residency status. The new law requires any non-Israeli citizen who is married to someone with residency status to pay a one-time fee (nearly 8,000 NIS), plus several hundred shekels each month – per person – in order to qualify for medical insurance. For those who qualify for national health insurance coverage (citizens and permanent residents), monthly fees are figured as a percentage of one monthly paycheck, and come to 2-300 NIS per month. This also includes children. Co-payments are taken on a per-use basis.
There are many aspects to the law that are creating much confusion, and Atta’a is working with a number of NGO’s to clarify and help residents. For example, the sum asked of non-Israelis (including those from the West Bank and Gaza) married to those with resident status (nearly all the cases in East Jerusalem) is much higher than that asked by those married to Israeli citizens. This was brought to the attention of the courts, who froze the law, making the higher payments unnecessary until the law is un-frozen. But Atta’a has heard of many cases in which HMO’s still require these payments. Atta’a is working with another organization to establish a special cases committee, for those who are unable to pay the new law’s exorbitant fees, since all costs are per person and the average salary is 4-5,000 NIS per month.
Other times, issues require more intensive care. Atta’a’s volunteers, who are often also lawyers, are on hand when necessary to help residents through the process of clarifying a vast range of issues from a legal standpoint. And when relevant, the volunteers refer these cases to other groups or organizations.We hope and anticipate that this will make a difference in people’s lives.
Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their ongoing support of this program.