Femi Premium Ltd. won a tender to provide services for Bituach Leumi (the National Insurance Institute), and, as of January 1st, assumed responsibility for reviewing work accident claims by non-Israeli workers seeking reimbursement for medical expenses they incurred due their injuries. Femi has not issued a single reimbursement for over half a year, but Bituach Leumi is accepting this situation. How is this possible? Well, it’s happening in Femi's case.

Why do workers need to ask Femi for retroactive coverage of medical treatment following a work accident in the first place? In the case of Palestinian workers employed in Israel or by Israeli citizens and firms, they have no insurance covering their medical treatment after a work accident, neither in Israel nor in the West Bank – until they are recognized by the Bituach Leumi as victims of such accident. Moreover, their work permits (and thus ability to enter Israel) are revoked when they are no longer able to work, so they have no choice but to pay for treatment at medical institutions in the West Bank. They are only entitled to compensation for lost working days and eligible to ask for a refund of their medical expenses after a lengthy, complicated claim review process concludes and they are officially recognized as victims of work accidents. Needless to say, a worker who has just been laid off urgently needs money and such a long wait is unreasonable. The Bituach Leumi and Femi employees surely receive their salaries in an orderly fashion.

Since October 2021, Ehud Ein Gil, a veteran volunteer at Kav LaOved, has sent dozens of claims for reimbursements to Femi, each of which required extensive receipts and other documentation, to no avail—they are met with silence from Femi on the other side. As just one example, Femi has not yet taken the time to review the reimbursement claim of Shadi, a 24 year old from Aqabat Jaber refugee camp, who was injured while working on a site in the Ma'ale Adumim industrial zone. Shadi paid for needed medical treatment himself and waited three years before receiving official recognition of his work accident. Even more, the refund to which he is entitled has been delayed for almost half a year. Femi also has not found the time to review the reimbursement claim submitted by Muhammad, age 26, from Jericho, who was injured in a work accident in Mishor Adumim. He has been waiting since October of last year to get reimbursed for 5,296 NIS in medical expenses.
We recently sent a letter to Bituach Leumi asking how the institution reconciles itself with the complete dysfunction exemplified by the winner of their tender. We asked how it can be that workers are told to expect a refund within 5 months, while, in fact, Bituach Leumi seems to have tacitly reconciled itself with the fact that a private company, supported by public money, does not perform its job by following through on its officially stated timeline, severely harming policyholders. Our letter calls on Bituach Lemui to take action and offer a viable, interim solution to ensure timely reimbursement for work accident victims and use lessons learned from this situation to improve management of the claim review process in the future.

Shadi, Muhammad and many other workers will eventually get what they deserve, but the mental anguish and blatant disregard for their rights will accompany them for years to come.
Kav LaOved