A long-term care insurance program has been proposed to cover dementia sufferers, Department of Health Deputy Minister Cheng Shou-hsia (鄭守夏) said on Thursday.
Cheng, who heads a panel that will begin preparations for the introduction of the program, said that although most dementia sufferers do not have physical disabilities, they require very laborious and attentive care.
Further studies will be carried out to decide which levels of dementia will be eligible for coverage, Cheng said.
Around 160,000 people in the country suffer from dementia, a number that is expected to exceed 620,000 by 2056, or an increase of 10,000 people every year, the non-profit Taiwan Alzheimer’s Disease Association said.
Of the 2.4 million Taiwanese aged 65 or over, 10 percent are classed as disabled and 5 percent of those suffer from dementia, the association said.
Cheng said the department was planning to reorganize the healthcare system to create a “subacute care” category alongside the existing “acute care” and “chronic disease care” categories. It would decide later if the new category should be covered by the National Health Insurance program or the proposed long-term care insurance program.
“Subacute care” refers to care for patients treated in settings other than acute care beds. Conditions requiring subacute care can include brain and spinal cord injuries, neurological and respiratory problems, cancer, stroke, AIDS and head trauma.
Cheng said his panel is expected to present a draft of the long-term care insurance law by the end of this year, to pave the way for the program’s introduction in 2011 or 2012.
Similar to the National Health Insurance, the new coverage will be run by the government, with insured persons required to share the cost by making partial payment at hospitals, he said.
However, he added, it remained uncertain whether the program would include all citizens or only those aged 40 and over.
As most people requiring long-term care are senior citizens, young people and employers might be unwilling to pay the premiums, he said.