Furthermore, if the government does not manage and control the quality of service and set norms for fees charged, it is very likely that commercialized long-term care services would become a market in which the seller dictates the price. Even if the government were to subsidize people’s use of care services, it could lead to a situation in which, however much subsidy the government provides, service operators are able to raise their prices accordingly. In effect, the government would be throwing money into a bottomless pit, as has happened in the childcare sector.
The government’s policy of subsidizing free nursery facilities for five-year-old children, under which it just pays the money, but does not control the services, should serve as a lesson. While the government has set aside an annual budget of more than NT$8 billion (US$275.3 million) to subsidize every child’s nursery school fees to the tune of several thousands of New Taiwan dollars, parents still have to pay nursery schools as much as NT$10,000 per month in miscellaneous fees. This situation has prevented the government from extending the subsidy to cover children under five years old in nursery schools, while parents still have to bear a heavy financial burden. The result is the nation’s birthrate has continued to fall.
Given what has happened in the case of the nursery school subsidy, could the same thing happen in future with long-term care services for the elderly? The result this time could be that elderly people end up getting abandoned by their families.
Liu Yu-hsiu is convener of the Universal Care Policies Advocacy Coalition and a professor in National Taiwan University’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. Wang Pin is an assistant professor in National Taipei University’s Department of Social Work.
Translated by Julian Clegg