When you arrive as an oleh, the first government office you meet with is Misrad Haklita. They have an office in the airport, and when you arrive you go to them. They give you your teudat oleh (the booklet that you use when you use your zechuyot (rights) for things like lifts, a car, appliances, etc. Goal: Do not lose. You also get vouchers for health insurance, opening a bank account, a taxi to your first destination in Israel, your first sal klita payment (if applicable), and a whole bunch of useful booklets that tell you things about how things work, like the health care system, education, etc. And a yoman (day planner) with lots of useful information.
Registering for Kupat Cholim
Israel has socialized medicine, which practically means that there are four health funds (kupot cholim; singular is kupat cholim) for Israelis to choose from. There is the sal briut which is the basic basket of services that all Israelis have. New immigrants—not returning minors or foreign citizen-immigrants—get the basic sal bruit for free from the government for 6 months. There is also supplemental insurance (bituach mashlim) which covers more things—medications, treatments, etc. This you have to pay for, the government does not give it to you for free, and each kupah has different plans.
The four health funds are Meuchedet, Maccabi, Clalit, and Leumit. Which one you choose is pretty much determined by where you live. You can belong to any one you choose, but you want one that’s accessible to you. You can also switch health funds every year by going to the post office and paying a fee of about 14.5 shekels (more on the post office and its role in Israeli society in a later post).
There are certain restrictions that the different health funds place on its members, such as you have to be member of the fund for a certain amount of time before xyz treatment. The supplemental plans are different for each kupah and cover different things, but the best thing to do is talk to people where you want to live and see what they recommend. Also, if you are taking any medications or have any medical conditions, check with the different kupot to find out if your medications, treatments, equipment, etc., are covered and to what degree (example: one medicine is not covered at all with the sal briut—the basic basket of services—but if you have supplemental insurance, it’s 50% covered in one kupah and 30% in another and 75% in another and 80% in another. But a piece of equipment is not covered at all in the first kupah, 100% covered in the second, 20% covered in the third, and 65% covered in the fourth. Or if you have the higher level supplemental plan it’s covered but if you have the lower level it’s not).
Once you have decided on your kupah, you go to the post office to sign up. You can’t do this until the day after you arrive because you’re not in the system yet (but you technically are covered even before you officially register). So you go to the post office with the voucher that you got from Misrad Haklita at the airport, pay a fee (I think it’s 14.5 shekels for each adult–child and get another paper that says you have registered to a specific health fund. You take that paper to your local branch of kupat cholim and finish your registration at the kupah and they give you a magnetic card right then, or send it to you in the mail. You can also sign up for the supplemental plans then.
Paying for these—the government gives you 6 months of the basic health basket for free, but the supplemental plans you pay for and you have to give the kupah your bank details so they can do hora’at keva, which is designated payments (more on these later) from your bank account.