Insurance plan

China’s insurance plan guarantees a decent life for the elderly with disabilities

A home helper massages an 83-year-old woman at her home in Lianyungang city, Jiangsu province, on Dec. 6, 2021. /CFP

A home helper massages an 83-year-old woman at her home in Lianyungang city, Jiangsu province, on Dec. 6, 2021. /CFP

Home helper Zeng Xianli still remembers one of her clients, a 94-year-old lady with Alzheimer’s disease. Due to the illness, she could not take care of herself or recognize her family members, so she needed someone else to take care of her.

Zeng helped the elderly as her daughter struggled to care for her mother and husband, a cancer patient.

During her one-hour shift, Zeng helped the elderly take a shower, wash her hair, and do finger exercises to improve her reaction skills.

Although the elderly lost most of her memory, she remembered Zeng, who accompanied her when she watched cartoons and called her “my good friend.”

The home care service provided by Zeng is inexpensive. For example, in Zeng’s case, the elderly person’s daughter only had to pay 201.5 yuan ($30) per month, only 10 percent of the total amount. The remaining 90% of the costs are covered by an insurance called long term care insurance.

The main function of long-term care insurance is to provide services or financial guarantees for the basic care of long-term disabled people and medical care closely related to basic life, thus effectively reducing the economic burden and family care burden.

“Exploring and improving long-term care insurance matters a lot in China’s active response to the growing aging population,” said Fang Ya, an expert on aging at Xiamen University.

With the rapid aging of the Chinese population, the proportion of elderly people with disabilities is becoming increasingly large.

A study by Fang and colleagues estimated that the number of elderly people with disabilities in China will increase rapidly from 43.75 million in 2020 to 91.4 million in 2050, and the growth rate of elderly people with mild, moderate and severe disabilities in 2050 is 108 percent, 104 percent and 120 percent respectively, compared to 2020.

A home helper cooks dinner for a blind elderly person at home in Fuzhou city, Fujian province, China, Nov. 24, 2020. /CFP

A home helper cooks dinner for a blind elderly person at home in Fuzhou city, Fujian province, China, Nov. 24, 2020. /CFP

The remarkable growth, on the one hand, has a lot to do with the widely known fact that China is one of the most populous countries in the world. The aging population is characterized by a broad base and rapid growth, Fang said, adding that the physical decline resulting from aging leads to notable health problems like disability and dementia.

And on the other hand, people with chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension have a lot of potential to become disabled seniors, Fang said.

Fang also mentioned the human and economic costs that families, especially adults, have to pay to care for the disabled elderly.

“For the elderly with disabilities, it is very urgent to provide them with basic services and medical care to ensure them a decent life,” Fang said.

Launched in the city of Qingdao in eastern China in 2012, the long-term care insurance covered more than 140 million people in 49 cities across China by the end of 2021, and 1.6 million people with disabilities benefited, the newspaper reported, citing statistics.

In 2022, several regions in China decided to expand insurance coverage. For example, in Beijing, Xuzhou City (east China) and Chongqing Municipality (southwest), long-term care insurance will cover all residents instead of just those in pilot areas.

Acknowledging the remarkable achievements that long-term health insurance has made across the country, Fang also pointed to two challenges ahead. One of them is that most regions only include severely disabled elderly people in the insurance, and the other is that there is still no unified scientific assessment of the grades of disabled elderly people. .

Zhang Lin, an aging expert at Hunan University, also said there is an urgent need to introduce a national standard on skills assessment for the elderly.

Today marks World Population Day, and the UN said in a report that the world’s population is expected to reach eight billion on November 15.