Planning for a 10-year long-term care plan began under the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration, but President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration is now calling it one of its “political achievements.” So what has Ma done? Whatever it is, it clearly does not pass any sort of litmus test.
A few days ago, media reports said a daughter-in-law was suspected of beating her mother-in-law to death after losing control of her emotions. The reports said the mother-in-law had had a stroke and had been placed in a nursing home, but because of the family’s meager income, she had to go back home where her daughter-in-law looked after her. If the Ma government has achieved anything, why do tragedies like this keep happening?
While the Ma administration’s recent long-term care policies may have won it some praise, these policies ignore the needs of ordinary people. The Cabinet is not interested in talking about establishing affordable long-term care services; instead, it is encouraging people to purchase private long-term care insurance while allowing life insurance companies to run long-term care services, so they can sell long-term care insurance and operate long-term care services. However, the average family cannot afford such insurance and services.
The Ministry of the Interior recently proposed a reverse mortgage policy that would provide financial assistance to elderly people not eligible for pensions. However, this would only benefit those who own a house. The Council of Labor Affairs also proposed a trial scheme of hiring foreign nurses on an hourly basis, but this would merely provide those who can already afford a foreign nurse with an extra option. The government’s long-term care policies only serve large corporations and those with a lot of cash or who own property. In addition, the government is planning to increase labor insurance premiums and cutting labor pension payments.
Academics and experts warned long ago that Taiwanese society is aging. With the number of disabled or incapacitated people increasing, the pressure of having to take care of them will lead to more family disputes and broken homes, they said. Women, who are traditionally expected to take charge of family care and who normally have less money than men, will bear the brunt of these policies. The privatization of long-term care, coupled with shrinking guarantees for labor pensions, will cause a string of tragedies to sweep Taiwanese society.
If the government keeps stubbornly doing what it wants instead of what the public needs, government officials may be shocked to discover a future in which most Taiwanese cannot afford private health insurance, the care services sold by profit-making companies or caregivers from Southeast Asian countries. The government wants to strengthen family relations, but no essay competition in the world will be able to change the fact that such relations have long been destroyed by the pressures of providing long-term care.
Sixteen years ago, academics and experts underlined the need for the government to introduce universal and affordable public care services. Only when the provision of care services is no longer a private concern and becomes a matter of government concern or an important part of the national infrastructure will there be room to reduce the stress put on families to provide care.
Unfortunately, the Ma administration seems uninterested in this matter, and one can only wonder if the public has to wait another 16 years before something happens.
Chyn Yu-rung is director of policy at the Awakening Foundation.
Translated by Drew Cameron