Tue, Feb 24, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Long-term care coverage planned

MORE MONEY NEEDED In order to provide such care for the elderly and physically or mentally disabled, workers would have to contribute more each month

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Government officials are mulling “long-term care insurance,” which could require a majority of the population to shell out more of their salary in health care-related premiums.

The news has fueled anger, coming on the heels of the Department of Health’s efforts to increase National Health Insurance (NHI) premiums. Department of Health Minister Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) announced last week that the “1.5 Generation NHI Act” would be shelved until the economy recovers.

Now the Executive Yuan has asked several agencies, including the health department, the Council for Economic Planning and Development and the Ministry of the Interior, to draft a rough proposal on long-term care for the elderly and disabled.

Yang Chih-liang (楊志良), vice president of the Taichung Healthcare and Management University and a participant in drafting the proposal, said the plan was “urgently needed.”

About 10 percent of the population is 65 years old or above at present, but that number will increase to 22 percent in 10 years, he said.

“The rate at which our population is aging is even faster than in Japan — we rank No. 1 in the world [for the rate of aging] … Even if we do it now, it may already be too late,” Yang said.

He said a long-term care program would target all those who need looking after, the physically or mentally disabled as well as the elderly.

Funding such a program might require each worker to contribute1 percent of his or her monthly salary.

“Like the NHI, low-income families would receive subsidies or be exempt from paying the new premium,” Yang said. “For the general public, the rate would be about one-sixth or one-seventh of their NHI contribution or about 1 percent of their monthly salary.”

Yang said he hoped that by requiring everyone to pay the premium, everyone could participate in preparing for an aging society and help eliminate problems such as the increasing number of homeless elderly.

Qualifying for long-term care coverage would be based on how a person handled “daily living activities,” such as dressing themselves, eating, showering and using the restroom on their own.

Yang said that the proposal would be completed by June, and he hoped the health department would have related laws and regulations drafted by the end of the year to be sent to the legislature.

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